I was having my breakfast at the kitchen table on that sunny morning when gunfire broke out in the valley across our building. The country had been in civil war for a decade now, and two opposing Lebanese militia were going at each other in the usual, occasional skirmishes.
But this morning, five-year-old me decided that war was not nice, and that I was going to do something about it.
I went into my room and grabbed my bathing towel, tied it around my neck like a cape and rushed out to the balcony.
I climbed up onto the rails, spread my arms out like a superhero, and shouted at the top of my lungs. “اوقفوا القتال” (Cease your fire!) I always spoke classical Arabic, thanks to cartoons; the same cartoons that inspired me to end a civil war using only the power of my words.
As the echoes of my two words died down, gunshots raged again, but this time in the direction of my balcony. The glass behind me shattered as bullets riddled the walls of our house. The militia were not kid-tolerant.
My mother crawled onto the balcony and pulled me onto the floor from my cape, then dragged me all the way inside. A few days later we were all on a plane leaving Lebanon. We moved to Egypt, then Saudi Arabia, then Jordan, then back to Lebanon when the civil war ended.
I learned at a very young age that some words can get you killed.. But I also learned that words alone don’t cause change. Without action, they’re just an echo. Followed by gunshots.