A Stone's Throw

As I ride through Kandahar City’s Sub-District 9, I see a naked dust-covered kid playing along the road. That is not the strangest thing. But when he picks up a large rock and hurls it at the truck, I wonder aloud, “What the hell? Who lets their kid run around naked throwing rocks? What kind of place is this?”

Years of war and violence have produced a perversely unique system, where hurling rocks at others is a legitimate sport. It is easy to become cynical, even contemptuous, of those kids who throw rocks. However, we must not allow our anger to numb our compassion. In a place like this, compassion for a dirty rock-throwing kid is all that keeps us human.

If our entire world, from our first breaths, was a closely circumscribed existence defined by poverty, war, death, dirt, and dust, how would we perceive the world around us? How different would we be? Maybe rock throwing would not seem so strange.

My son has grown up seeing men in uniform as “the good guys,” not a threat. When his bunny rabbit died, he cried for a day and buried it in the back yard. That is as close to death as he has ever been. He takes a hot bath every night. He has ice-cold water, juice, and soda for the taking. His world is secure, reliable, and good. He is happy, safe, and loved.

That kid with the rock has never known the world my son takes for granted. His world is not secure, reliable, and good. It is dangerous, uncertain, and rough. Still, he knows how to throw rocks. It is one certain thing in an uncertain world. So that is what he does. Understanding this, my response is compassion, compassion for a child who seeks to hurt me, compassion for a child who is no less a child of God than my own son.

I cannot change his world, but I can—I must—try to understand it. Otherwise, a kid with a rock is just one more kind of enemy instead of the person he really is, a kid who, like my own son, only wants to be happy, safe, and loved.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jeff Cantor shakes the hand of an Afghan boy outside Bagram Airfield in Janquadam, Parwan province, Afghanistan

War Zone Faith

By Captain George Tyger

From Skinner House Books

Determined to find meaning in the midst of war, Captain George Tyger reflects on his faith, his prejudices, and his privilege, and shares the unique perspective he has gained while serving and ministering in a war zone.

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