Three to Flee: What Would You Take?

Photo courtesy of Nikki Toyama-Szeto


The bangles are gold, a deeply yellow gold. My preference would be for something a bit more subtle, less yellow…but these gold bangles are so yellow because they are pure, 24-karat gold.

I was recently asked what I would take with me if I suddenly had to flee my home. The question came up in the context of the many families and children at the southern US border, people who faced difficult circumstances and had to make that very choice.

What would I take with me if I suddenly had to flee my home?

I feel like the right answer would have been “my Bible,” but to be honest, I’m not sure if that would be one of my top choices.

The practical answer would be my cell phone and wallet. So much of my life, cloud and otherwise, live in those two places. But the engineer in me wants to know: if I was fleeing, would I have electricity wherever I was going? What are the rules of this question that, for me, is only hypothetical?

My heart’s answer, besides bringing my kids, would be to bring some of my photos—paper treasures that point me to my kids, my family, my history. These things are irreplaceable.

But as I thought, I realized I already knew the answer. I would bring my gold bangles.

Part of the story of the family I was marrying into is the story of needing to leave, fast.

When I was married, I received a set of gold bangles from my Chinese mother-in-law. During our tea ceremony, she gifted them to me—they were given to her when she was married. On one side is a phoenix, a feminine character; on the other is a dragon, a masculine character. As I was told, these two animals are often a part of Chinese wedding imagery.

But these bangles, just barely big enough for my wrist, served a practical purpose, too. These bangles were portable money, a mobile savings account, because part of the story of the family I was marrying into is the story of needing to leave, fast. As beautiful as these bangles are, there were also a practical necessity. They say to me, “On this, your wedding day, we want to give you something that will possibly provide some security, some protection, no matter what may come up in life.”

So that is what I would take.

The bangles are carefully nested on a velvet holder, tucked away in a safe and secret place. But I know that our family’s story is being echoed around the world today as too many families are forced to take flight. I rarely give thought to these lovely tokens from my wedding. But as I’m asked, “What would you take if you had to flee?” I’m reminded that someone else has already thought through that, a bit, for me.

Nikki Toyama-Szeto is Executive Director of Christians for Social Action.

Action Alert!

The #ThreetoFlee campaign from World Relief is intended to bring attention to the desperate circumstances refugees face every day. When families are forced to flee their homes, they often have only seconds to gather their most treasured belongings. If you only had seconds to choose 3 things, what would you take?

Record a short 60-second video describing what 3 things you would take with you as you flee your home. Here are the instructions:

  1. Video yourself and/or take photos of your items. Include your name, who challenged you and the names of three people you are nominating.
  2. Upload your video to social media, tagging and challenging at least three of your friends or family including #threetoflee. Please also include your refugee friends to participate, their voices need to be heard!
  3. Encourage friends to visit to learn more about the over 70 million people around the world who have been forced to flee.

Here is a suggestion on how to start your video and an example of one done by one of the World Relief staff:

I am taking the Three To Flee Challenge and I would love for you to join me. Every day around the world, refugees and asylum seekers are being turned away. Often, these families have only seconds to gather their most treasured belongings. If I could take 3 things, I would take: _______ . What would you take?

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