By Waging Peace
“I fish so my children can eat,” he told me.
I’m on the island of Lesbos, a couple miles off of the coast of Turkey assisting refugees. Maybe you’ve heard of it, it’s where 100,000’s of refugees have sailed to. They flee Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, etc. making their way to Turkey, then hire smugglers to get them to Lesbos in overcrowded, dilapidated boats.
This is my second time here and I’ve learned that people open up more when they are away from the Refugee Camp, so as I saw him fishing, I walked up and engaged in conversation.
Khalil was fishing with a hook, and line wrapped around a piece of plastic, using bread for bait. You can see others doing the same behind him. As I started asking about his living conditions and food, he pointed to his son in a stroller, saying, “I fish so he can eat. I do not worry about my life, only my children.” I had two cans of chickpeas I’d just bought in my backpack, I gave them to him.
Khalil was forced to flee ISIL. His English is good, and made sure to give me details of his story. Similar to many I’ve heard and shared, yet still terrible – house burned, fleeing suddenly, the expensive trip in an unsafe, overcrowded boat to Lesbos, the horrible living conditions of Moria Refugee Camp, and the despair.
For the past few days I’ve been thinking about Thanksgiving – those in Palestine, recalling last year’s heartbreak with Syrians, and again this Thanksgiving finding myself with those in need. I think about how years ago I celebrated to the excess: excessive amounts of food, television, shopping (to increase our excess), and we might have said a 30 second piece about being thankful, all while so many locally and globally didn’t have enough. I knew, I just didn’t do anything.
I’m a follower of Jesus, and sure Jesus taught that one is to be thankful, but it seems to me that this is only the starting point, that in gratitude we are to be involved in sharing, making sure others have enough. Jesus said things like love your neighbor as yourself (making one racially and theologically different the hero of his story.) And saying that what we do, or fail to do to those in need – welcoming strangers, giving food, water, shelter, clothing, medical care, our presence and time – we do or fail to do, to him. It’s radical and may be why he was killed. It may seem like a chore, or a sacrifice to do these things, but it’s really the opposite.
In my experience, and my observations of others, there is something about being with those in need that vividly connects us to both divinity and humanity. It’s truly life-giving!