By Christa Hobart
When the gentle tugs at your heart turn to soft whispers to your soul urging you to be the change you wish to see in the world, I encourage you to dig deep and listen.
Recently I returned from a trip to Greece to assist refugees. While I’ve been to Greece many times prior to the crisis, the country and the people no longer take center stage. Instead, they provide a beautiful backdrop for a complex humanitarian drama.
The characters are the world’s most vulnerable. People who had no choice but to flee their war-torn countries in search of a better life. People doing nothing different than I would do to find a safe place for my family. And, despite the conditions and their unknown futures, they are simply grateful to have made it this far.
On my most recent trip, as I settled into my comfortable seat on my flight home, I gazed down upon the majestic and peaceful Italian Alps. A beautiful landscape was just outside my window, but inside my heart, nothing seemed to make sense. As I softly sobbed and tried to discreetly wipe away my tears, I wrote the following journal entry:
Crying my way across Europe today. Crying because it’s not fair that I can simply flash my American passport and hop on a plane home.
Crying because my journey home is simple. Crying because everyone I met can’t simply go home.
However, while their home is gone, their love of country and hopes to return one day depend on peace. A peace no one can be certain will return in their lifetime.
Crying because every Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan I met took a much more complex journey than I am taking. Often times walking for days and months while carrying their children and a handful of belongings. Their most important papers, the only thing proving who they were, tucked closely to their bodies, carefully wrapped in plastic so they would not be lost or destroyed on their journey.
Crying because my adopted homeland of Greece and its people are suffering, too. The economic struggle has made a significant impact on their lives. And while they are the most kindhearted and generous people, managing the tremendous influx of refugees has not been easy.
Crying because, while we helped to fill some needs, it is but the tiniest drop in a bucket – with a hole in the bottom, mind you – of what is needed.
Crying because I will never ever forget watching my friend, without one word spoken, comfort a young mom who had just lost her twin babies five days earlier. While arguably the most difficult minutes I have ever witnessed, at the same time one of the most beautiful and compassionate. Emotions are emotions. They speak no language and transcend religious differences.
Crying because I haven’t slept more than a handful of hours in the last 12 days and my body is nearly in shutdown mode.
Crying because I won’t be able to erase the young mother and teacher traveling with two small children, one of them autistic, asking me: “Can anyone help me get to my husband?”
Crying because I feel guilty. Guilty because somehow I was lucky enough to be born in a country where we have the luxury to take our freedom for granted. Freedom, something everyone – no matter race, creed or age – should have as a basic right.
While I came to help, what the refugees have given me in return is far greater than the winter hats and hugs we gave out. The refugees have given me hope. Hope for a better tomorrow for all of us sharing this place called Earth together.