November 19, 2015

Paris Is About Life

I thought I didn't have much to add to what happened in my favorite city last weekend.

Everything I could say, I thought I'd already said before.

I love Paris. You can read all about that in my eBook, Four Years in Paris. I wish I'd had a hundred years to live there, and not just four. I still feel that way.

True Muslims are not terrorists. You can read my response to the Charlie Hebdo attack last January. My position remains unchanged.

But there's more to say now.

I wish you could have seen the somber look in the eyes of my seventeen-year-old Muslim teammate Saturday morning. Honestly, I had forgotten I had two Muslim teammates because our friendships aren't based on our belief systems.

She gave me a hug and sadly looked up at me. "It [the Koran] tells us ten times to not kill."

"I know. I know it's not your fault. Don't worry, I don't blame the Muslims."

I hate seeing the distrust rising up all around us.

Build walls, they say.

Close borders, they say.

Don't accept refugees, they say.

Keep them out, they say.

What scares me the most?

I don't know how these terror attacks will shift the policies and politics of the European Union. How it will affect immigration and immigrant rights. How it will affect travel between EU countries. How it could potentially develop into something bigger than all of us, and even Americans could have to return to their home country.

Am I scared to return to Paris?


In fact, I already have plans to do so in the spring.

I wish I could get all preachy about being courageous and living our lives as if nothing happened. While most of us were maybe unable to identify with comic strip writers mocking Islam, we can surely identify with the study abroad student at a café, a group of friends at a concert, and fans at a sporting event.

The dead and injured could have been me. You. My best friend. Any of my university students, volleyball teammates, or Marc's basketball players.

It could have been any of us.

While we can't successfully live in constant fear and paranoia, we must take what's happened as a time to reflect deeply on our reality in 2015.

One of my high school English teachers, wildly eccentric as he may have been, always challenged us with something he called "Eight Questions All Humans Ask." I can only remember six for certain, but he made us answer these at least twice a year. He insisted it was crucial to building our worldview. He was right.

What is real?
What is truth?
Where did we come from?
What is the purpose of life?
What is the difference between right and wrong?
What happens to us after we die?

I think another question was something like, "what is knowledge," and the other one will just remain a mystery for now.

I have another question to add anyway, as a follow-up to each of the above questions.

Why does it matter?

Because if you can't answer where you came from, who you are, why you're here, or where you're going, then you're just drifting along to the chaotic rhythm of a crazy world where anything could happen anywhere to anyone at any time.

Your decisions and reactions have everything to do with your worldview, or lack thereof. Live your life with purpose and meaning, and when your time comes, you'll be ready.

As attached or unattached we may feel to the most recent Paris attacks, we must take the time to be thankful for our lives and the lives around us everyday. This expiring gift of life on Earth is not to be taken for granted.

Please pray for Paris and the rest of the world, and be thankful for your life and freedom this Thanksgiving.


  1. Really thought-provoking questions and I paused and went through them as I read. My answers have definitely changed over the years. Great post! #allaboutfrance

    1. Thanks, Diane. I even felt myself re-answering the questions as I wrote this! Great to see you on #AllAboutFrance, as always!

  2. Beautifully written Swags, it sounds like you had an inspiring English teacher. Nothing will ever stop me form going to Paris but like you I fear what might happen all around us with the escalation of strikes in Syria and the fear-mongering that goes with us all this. Thanks for linking to #AllAboutFrance

    1. Hey Phoebe! Thank you so much! My teacher was definitely cut from old stock and I learned a lot of interesting perspectives in his class! Hopefully, all of us crazy expats can push the positives of Paris and travel and we will prevail with peace in the end! Thank you for keeping up #AllAboutFrance!!

  3. I love this post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the attacks. You wrote so beautifully of our instinct to build walls and be afraid of others. I went to Paris 2 weeks after the attacks, and while my family wasn't happy that I went so soon after, I couldn't cancel my trip and live in fear. And the sick thing is while I've been in Paris, at least 3 big shootings have happened in the US that I've heard about in the news. I don't know all the answers, but I long for peace in our world!

    1. Thank you, Sara! I'm really glad you were still able and willing to make your trip - I think for people like us, who have lived in Paris, Paris isn't intimidating, no matter what happens!! We just have to keep bringing the joy we find to the world. Peace may not be on earth, but it can be in our hearts.

  4. Lovely post and words. I totally agree with you. And like you I love Paris and I'm always happy to return. It's just so sad to see all this suffering caused by our own race.

    Happy to have found you on #AllAbout France :)

    1. Thank you, Allane! I know, why can't we all just agree to leave each other alone?! Looking forward to meeting up with you eventually!

  5. Thank you for such a thoughtful post that has given me reason to pause today and think about your questions. My desire to visit Paris again (and again...) hasn't changed either, but our world and how we go about our lives has certainly become more complicated.

    1. Hi Cathy, thanks for your response. We can do our best in our corners of the world, and that's all we can really ask of anyone! Have a wonderful Christmas, and I hope you get to Paris again soon!


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