Saturday, February 15, 2014


By: Sam Wazan
2:00 p.m. EST, February 15, 2014

Look! I live in Charlotte, NC, and I am still coping with nature’s wrath. I know how you feel. Your sanity is eroding in a new and temporary normal. Let us cut a deal! I will trade you five days of a snow-cabin fever for a few moments, which I endured in a fetid underground garage depot dodging bombs! I am sorry. Never mind the trade! I wouldn't do that to anyone, not even those who harbored the thugs with the rocket launchers during the Lebanese civil war from 1975-1990, where I grew up. But please, snap out of it. Count your blessings. Not convinced? Here are ten contrasts that might change your mind, and potentially nourish your compassion.

1. Go outside. Let the snowflakes land and tickle the skin on your face. ​Like me in Lebanon then, now Syrian children go outside, but terrified a rocket would fall from the sky and shrapnel pierce their flesh. Feel the cold front. It is safe.

2. Make snowballs. Engage in a snowball fight. Let the children’s laughter echo in the silent white
backdrop. Praise the winner. During the first two years of the Lebanese war and after battles subsided, I scavenged the streets for shell casings. By thirteen years old, I showcased anti-aircraft shells. No one praised my collection. Save a ball in the freezer.

3. Build a snow man. Decorate it with colorful ornaments. Take a picture and post it on Facebook. Cherish the memory. As for me, I stumbled over a dead man's body one morning. A small pond of black clotted blood formed under his head. Ironically, the dead man wore a three-piece white suit. I wish I can get that image out of my head. Send me a picture of your snowman. Maybe a few of those will blur the grotesque memory.

4. Carve snow angels. Flap your arms and legs. Get up and admire the angelical rendition. Fantasize being in the company of the divine celestial creations. In Syria, civilians live terrified by demon-possessed defenders and perpetrators. Pray for their salvation. Enjoy peace.

5. Let light in. Lift the blinds. Slide the curtains. Let brightness beam into your home. While in
Lebanon, we kept the blinds and curtains up or down, permanently. To alter the view would alert a sniper to our presence. Therefore, he would dedicate his time, scope, and line of vision to lodging a bullet in every one of us. Our bullet-ridden kitchen cabinets told the story. Bask in the light.

6. Shave! If a beard is not your thing, and whiskers are protruding, for heaven’s sake shave. Be driven by your sense of normalcy, not the normalizing pressures of your social and work circles. After puberty, I let my whiskers grow. My appearance ranked low, just above my status in the pecking order of survival, at the bottom. Be who you are. Look sharp.

7. Bathe! You still have running water. All you have to do is manipulate the faucet to adjust the temperature for comfort. Now Syrians bathe exactly how I did during war-time Lebanon. Mother heated water in the tea pot on the one-eyed gas burner. I mixed the cold and hot water in a bucket. I used a ladle. On dry skin patches, the soap bar slipped and fell, frequently. Between pours, my skin stung from the cold. Stay clean. Be approachable!

​8. Use the family room as intended. Turn the TV off. Strike loving conversations, the absence of which you attributed to your career ambitions. In the combat zone, we huddled with strangers in awkward places. Some of us bonded by praying for salvation, while others did for the vicious demise of the enemy. Tell your family members why they are special.
9. Turn the lights on. Read a book. Beam a light on the pages or turn on your Ebook reader. Enjoy the silence. Submerge your mind in a fantasy world. For me, without power the flickering candle light morphed into a musical instrument. Words danced and hopped on their stage, the page. Scrubbing my eyes was a mere effort to stay alert to the louder cacophony of war. Enjoy the silence!

10. Stay Put. Heed the advice of the officials. Live and let live. Resist the urge to drive the car as advertised. Hazardous road conditions demand experienced drivers and specialized equipment. Where I came from, civilians outnumbered militant casualties a thousand fold. They died in route to their loved ones. Let the snow melt.

Look! If you think you have it bad waiting for the predictable weather to clear, try living where an elusive end is deliberate. Trust in the meteorologists and local municipalities. They uphold our safety above all religious, ethnic, or cultural affiliations. In Syria and enabled by minute affiliations, war lords hold the fate of civilians in their hands. They quest to prolong the suffering and raise the casualty rate for foreign funding and leverage at the negotiations table. Hug your kids. Enjoy the snow.