Most mornings I wake up to a Whatsapp message from my friends Manan and Mhasa.
It is the beginning of my day here and the middle of theirs, in the Greek refugee camp where they currently live. We say hello and I get to check in on how their minds and hearts are doing that day. Lately, I usually get a photo or two I requested of whatever Mhasa has eaten so far that day, since there has been some serious health concerns about her not eating enough of the challenging food they get offered three times a day.
My vision is to help get them to a place where they are able to start their new lives, eat real food, start healing and building. Just about every day, I make a move in that direction, sometimes to just hit a wall and bounce back towards another potential avenue. As of last week, I am upping the ante and getting a little more creative and bold. Let's see where my request with a staffer in our Senator's office gets me.
So, during our morning catch ups, we talk about that. The legal part of things, the patience needed, the focus. And food. And music sometimes.
As times passes, they share with me more and more of their story - a middle eastern mix of The Godfather and Romeo and Juliet - and a sweet tapestry weaves itself between us, one ping of the phone at a time. A French woman living on an island in the US and two 20 year old Afghani kids in Greece. I am grateful for technology.
Today, as I send Mhasa some photos of my garden, I realize that in the early days, I was not fully hearing them when they asked me (every time) "How are you?" and then often ended our conversations with "Please take good care of you and be careful." I would often respond with a quick "I am good," and then bring the focus back on them.
Part of me thought that the importance how I was really paled in comparison to how they were. I mean... I wake up in a warm bed, have a clean bathroom and a fridge I can help myself to any time of the day. Also, should I choose to, I can cross into another country's border within 90 minutes. Of course, I am good, and it seemed almost silly to talk about me. As for "taking good care of me," that also seemed unimportant. I am not in danger of deportation (I don't think), I keep my doors unlocked most of the time, and if I get stopped by the police, I will most likely not get beat up. These are things I used to take for granted and these are things which now I see as a privilege which I did nothing to earn.
But they ask. A lot.
"How are you?" and always: "Please be careful."
Finally, I heard it. They really do want to know how I am. "What are you doing today?" So I tell them. I send photos, too. And links to music. And for a while, our conversation is light and away from talk of UNHCR and the ever changing Greek laws.
At the end of our morning chats, I now also hear them when they ask me to be careful. And so I promise. As I learn more of their story, I understand more about the loss, the dangers and the traumas that would make them ask me to take care of me.
There is no telling how the rest of this story will be written. On this side of the world, nor on the other. There is no knowing why our lives intersect when they do and what will come of that. There is only responding, showing up and truly hearing. One day at a time.
For now, they are teaching me generosity. The true generosity that comes from sharing ourselves, not just helping ourselves to the satisfaction of contributing to someone else's life.
For this and more, I am grateful.
Essential Happiness Retreat
January 10 to 20, 2019
Guadeloupe, French Caribbean
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I write because this is the way I am able to taste life more deeply.