Hey Y’all. This is Hannah–not sure if this is going to show up on Tiffany’s account or not. Tech and I still are frenemies. 😉
It’s not usual for me to hesitate when asked to share about an experience–especially if it’s as amazing as one as traveling to another country! 😉
Yet here I am, unsure of what exactly I’m going to say next.
I could tell you about the refugees: their community and family oriented culture; their love of strong, sweet hot tea; the way their kids run wild, lured in only by cookies or silly games.
I could tell you about the first time I heard one of the little kids laugh. The sound was so full of absolute joy it caught me off guard and left me longing to hear more. Or the way they kids play a ridiculous version of Uno that demands all my someday-teacher skills and leave me speaking a weird mix of English and Farsi accent.
I could tell you about my teammates–how awesome and ridiculous they are.
*How Josiah is always positive, even on the hard days–and how he keeps almost dying. (Coming soon: “Why Simply Walk Down the Stairs? 10 Reasons to Almost Break One’s Neck Instead” By Josiah)
*How George has a super empathetic heart that constantly pushes us to recognize the humanity of each and every person–and how he keeps insisting on using Spanish even though we’re working with Greek or Middle Eastern people. (Why? No one knows…Also, ask him how he says “gluttony!”)
*How Tiffany is the Team Leader Extraordinaire, staying organized and amazingly patient with our mess–and how we have a growing conviction of her klutziness. At the current rate, we’ll be down a team leader by Monday due to injuries from tripping, spilling, and general how-did-you-manage-that-exactly nonsense. (She also threw a box at April’s face. So there’s that.)
*How April is bravely vulnerable about her struggles, and super fun to experience Greece with, since she’s so excited about all her “firsts”–and how she’s probably the *most* sane out of all of us…if that doesn’t scare you, you obviously don’t know her well! (Note: when I think of a really good roast for her, I’ll let ya know!) 😉
*How I’m perfect. AND important. They’re #blessed to have me along!
I could tell you (serious stuff, again) about the way I feel like culture shock or the pain of all the hard situations we’ve encountered hasn’t hit me yet. But that I feel like each new situation tears a little of the barrier I’ve put between my sore heart and the stuff no amount of training can prepare you for. How I’m terrified and eager for what will happen if that barrier is finally broken. My life might be irrevocably changed in ways it needs to be changed, but it will be broken, regardless.
I could tell you about today, about a simple mistake that caused a big, complicated hurt. Yes. I think this is what I really need to write…A well-meaning adult let a girl (8 years old?) named Maadia hold a baby while she watched. Somehow Maadia and all the careful adults nearby were distracted at the same, crucial moment, and the baby slipped from the chair to the hard tile floor. Even though the baby was soon consoled and fine (minus a scare and a sad looking bruise), the guilt of that simple action weighed heavy on Maadia, leaving her inconsolable despite the kind attempts of the staff interns. I looked in her face and I somehow knew why. She was crying about the baby being hurt, yes. But she was also crying about all the other moments in her young life where desperate situations demanded more responsibility of her than was right for her to carry. About how she’d failed many of those, exponentially so. The thing about guilt is it’s either resolved, or it accumulates: layer on top of try-to-forget-that-too layer.
Maybe she was too slow in packing her things to flee her country, and was yelled at when she needed comfort. Many of the refugees have a horrible time crossing by boat to Greece. Maybe she was asked by a beyond frantic mother to comfort a younger sibling, who was hungry and so refused to be comforted. Maybe she feels alienated from her family (who, as far as I know, are still Muslim). Who knows. I don’t know her story, and it is more than likely I’m putting much of this on her. This I do know: that little girl has already experienced much, much pain. I could see it hiding–barely held back–in her eyes, recognized it from the times I’ve stared, dull eyed and emotionless, at the reflection of my own eyes. But a lot of people have experienced pain. Some more, some less; some similar to mine or Maadia’s, but many different. Suffering, it would seem, is endlessly creative. (Don’t believe it. Joy is endlessly more so–I promise.) And at a certain point, counseling and strong wills and community can only do so much.
We’re still left alone with our guilt in the crucial moments when no one came to save us.
I believe Christianity–more specifically, Jesus Christ–offers the only true relief of that pain that haunts our days. He can meet you where you are, smack dab in the middle of the point where you are physically or emotionally incapable of continuing. Of waking up one more day or holding out your heart one more time. That’s why you can come honestly. That’s why you can, as someone reminded me today, “Pray in any language you wish.”
Farsi, English, Greek. … Pain, Joy, Guilt.
Jesus speaks them all.
If that doesn’t give us hope, may we learn to pray fearlessly, until it does.
“Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin or your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
–C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves