I had it in my mind that September would be a time of change for my refugee friends. The weather would start to get colder and I had remembered hearing about some UNHCR timeline to which I had set my internal clock. Something about a change in status, which could lead to a change in support. Usually these are immediate.
I had quietly decided that by the time September came around, I would have enough money in the Center’s informal Refugees Love Fund that I would be able to help them get settled into a small apartment in Athens, somewhere where they could start a more “normal” life, get a sense of Safety and Stability and also begin contributing in a way that would satisfy their 20-year olds reserves of energy. While they strongly resisted the idea of staying in Greece I kept my vision focused, knowing that it could very well be the only sane option they had. For now.
Well, it’s been a big summer. Much bigger than I would have chosen, had I been a bit more discerning in my management of the word YES.
Two Retreats back to back. One I facilitated and one I was invited to attend. I lead a Certification weekend. My mom’s illness worsened. All my kids were home. And then, I invented a community-wide Happiness Festival. Add the day-to-day stuff, and like I said, it was a big summer.
Most days, I spoke with my two young friends and all days, I kept my eye on the promise I made myself to help them move out of the camp before summer officially ended.
The weeks passed. Then the months. My quiet personal promise seemed less and less like something I could keep.
Some days we would talk about silly things and exchange photos, and some days the topic was heavier, such as the deep pain of never being able to go home, even when a dear relative of theirs was ill. Always in the background was a search for a solution, a country we may not have thought of, which would embrace them with a warm welcome. One theme that kept running through was that neither one of them wanted to stay in Greece. When they explained why, I understood.
Yesterday I received photos of 50 more tents having been added to the camp that morning to accommodate new arrivals. My heart was heavy. I did not have enough money to get them out. It would soon get colder. The asylum situation once more felt like a pressing weight on my brain. One to which I had no solution, immediate or not.
This morning, with them in Athens and me on my little island, we had a “serious conversation.” The kind where someone really asks you what you think, in a way that leaves no room for fluff or evasive answers.
I shared my true assessment, based on several conversations with immigration lawyers over the summer. I saw two options: either they allowed themselves to create a life in Greece for a while - outside the camp - or they found their way out of the country illegally. We discussed the risk of that second option and slowly, the first one emerged as a possibility that they would consider. For the first time, they allowed me to paint the picture of them living in an apartment, and working. I talked about “The Next Right Step,” and I think they heard me.
Greece’s 21% employment rate (40% for youth) did not bode well. The fact that I had little resources to help them move out of the camps did not feel good inside my heart either.
But for the first time in almost a year, the three of us were able to be on the same page and “see” a change, the same one, if only in our minds.
That was big step and because I believe in the Magic of intention and in the power of Life to deliver a perfect Form when we manage to reach full clarity on the Essence, I trusted that something would shift. Had to shift.
I stepped into the shower.
When I stepped out, a long message awaited me on my phone. The forwarded text of a message my friend had received while I was shampooing my hair and thinking of a way to make this new plan happen.
Between the time we came to an agreement on a potential vision and the time I stood dripping wet in my bathroom, a miracle had happened.
Someone, having noticed my friend’s kindness a few months ago and the way joy often bubbles up from her heart, was offering her a job. A job running a tea café in Athens, a place of gathering where refugees and international residents come to play cards, spend some time and enjoy community. With that job comes a small apartment and a salary in the form of food tickets. As well as some volunteers to help her. More than anything, it offers them a way to step into the next chapter of their lives. Out of the camps.
Just. Like. That.
To me, this is a beautiful hymn to the power of Clarity and the power of Surrender, too. An invitation to remember that it does not matter “how” something happens, just that it happen. A reminder of setting the vision, not letting it go, and at the same time getting out of the way.
September and they will be in an apartment.
Just the way I had promised myself they would. Not because I will have been able to send them a bunch of money, but because Life took over where my little humanness got stumped.
I know better than to think life will be all rosy right away. I lost that bit of innocence a while back. But I do believe with all my heart that this is the beginning of an important new chapter. The Next Right Step.
They leave the camp on Tuesday.
My new book