When we were in Makkah last month Noi made a habit of distributing sweets to the children at prayers. We would buy a big container of something in the afternoon - usually kit-kats - and she'd spread them around at Maghrib and Ishaq Prayers in the mosque. Sometimes she'd have some left over and we'd stand around together, spotting kids, and forcing the chocolates upon them, though it rarely required much in the way of actual force to get them to accept.
One evening we'd come to the end of the chocolates, being down to the last three bars. We spotted a group of three children and their parents and off-loaded the bars, with the parents smiling broadly. A quick conversation followed with the mum & dad asking us where we were from. After explaining our unusual background we asked the same of them. It turned out they were from Syria. Oh lovely, we said, or words to that effect and, wishing them well, hurried on. Then we admitted to each other that we really had not known what to say next. We both wanted to ask whether they were safe in their country, but it just seemed so intrusive to do so - and so odd at such a happy little moment.
I think of this encounter every time I see items about the on-going tragedy in Aleppo on the news. It's so difficult somehow to take in the notion that those suffering are just ordinary folks like us, yet they are the only sort of people to be found anywhere in the world, when you get down to it.