The first night, I ran up the stairs of our Athens' Best Western, two-star hotel and passed a group of middle eastern looking people in the dining room. Later that night, on the first floor landing a group of Muslim women were gathered together.
I wonder if they're Syrian refugees?
If they are, I want to talk to them.
The next morning we were up early and on a bus headed towards the Acropolis, and the new Acropolis museum, then off to shop, a subway ride and back to dinner. After dinner, when I ran up the stairs, I saw the group had grown to include men and women. I stopped cold, knowing I had to talk to them. My friend and fellow teacher had already begun the conversation, and I jumped right in. I had to know their plight, their fears and hopes.
One man spoke English, and translated well, but there is one thing that transcends language; it is love. They knew that Laura, that myself, that Candace all felt love for them.
Over the next hour, they recounted their experience of crossing in a boat to a Grecian island: the crazy expense and sitting in a boat built for 15, but carrying 50. The translator explained the deplorable living conditions: no electricity, inadequate food, no infrastructure and no jobs. Plus he added, "The bombs." It was clear they feared for their lives and their children's lives.
We explained how we have watched their plight on the news, felt their anguish, hated the hate that made their country unlivable. One man explained how the religion of fervent Islam drives young men to kill. I explained that my religion taught that we should love everyone--that they were my brothers and sisters and that God loves all his children. They wanted us to know that in their group they were Muslims and Christians and they got along just fine. They asked us to pray for them, but I thought why not pray for them right then and there. Why not pray together as different people who faced different challenges, had different beliefs, but who were all God's children. They agreed, and I bowed my head. Before I started, the tears flowed.
"Dear Heavenly Father, God and Allah,..."
When the prayer ended, every single person embraced one another. I felt God's love for all of us, and I hoped they felt his love.
When the encounter was over, I needed to put my money where my mouth was. I told our translator that I didn't have much money, but I wanted everyone to divide it up and share. I ran to my room, pulled out the euros that were going to buy my Italian boots.
Because who needs boots when I have a home, when I have a country.