This morning I watched the world from my fourth floor window. It was 5 in the morning and I couldn’t sleep. I opened my window and stuck my head out over the edge of the building and breathed in.
You know back in Canada, when you were a kid and it was winter and your ma woke you early in the morning to go to school, but you knew that as soon as your bare feet touched the cold floor a harsh cold would enter your body that would accompany you throughout your entire day, and would only be fully warmed by the blanket in your bed during the next night?
It was this blanket that I sat wrapped in, crosslegged looking out onto the road below breathing in the fresh, brisk November air.
The bakery across the road was already open. I saw a man walk out cupping a warm coffee and I watched the baker shuffle around in the dimly lit front room, making sure everything was ready to go. I saw the mail carriers at the post office next door, sort the mail, load their bikes and smoke one last cigarette before riding into the day.
As I sat breathing in the fresh cold air, in the perfectly cozy blanket, I took comfort knowing this was exactly the place I needed to be. While the rest of the world seemed to be waking up, I could sit still and anonymously watch their restlessness, restful myself. It was comforting considering how restless things have felt recently.
Many parts of my trip have not gone according to plan. The University did not accept me and I transferred to a full time practicum at the last minute, without any real preparation or idea of what that meant. Now I teach german. I go into each class insecure and leave feeling exhausted and questioning whether I’m helping or hindering the students, as though fleeing a war torn country wasn’t enough, now they also have to endure my shabby classes.
But its not all bad. Today, my beginner class finally, after 3 classes, understood all the parts of a family. The words for grandmother, aunt, nephew, son, sister in law etc. When I introduced the topic last week there was only confusion and a startling sense of naïveté when one older man asked where the second wife should go on the tree – there was no room on my prescribed german family tree.
Aside from teaching a beginners course and leading 3 conversational courses a week, I am interested in the larger governmental and social structures surrounding refugees and I visit as many presentations on the topic as I can. I’ve become sensitive to calling it “The Refugee Crisis”. I don’t know a lot, but I do know I wouldn’t like to be referred to as a “crisis”. And, I think it makes refugees sound like the perpetrators of the misfortune they endure.
I visited an evening presentation about rescue efforts in the Mediterranean sea last Friday. A doctor who volunteered on three missions showed us pictures and told us of his experiences. I found it sobering to see the faces of people who willingly got onto defect boats and wagered the very real possibility of death, rather than staying where they were, all in the hopes that someone would rescue them and bring them to Europe.
Another image I will not forget is the picture of a cruise ship on that same sea. Imagine that tour guide, “And over on your left you’ll see an overcrowded life boat with people sans PFD that might probably die. Bet they wish they had chosen, “The Good Life Cruises” for their vacation.” Haha … or not so much.
And then, I heard about how NGO’s were criminalized for “assisting illegal immigrants” and how 3,000 people have drowned in the Mediterranean sea (a conservative estimate).
A picture of Europe as a medieval fortress began to form in my mind, with a moat and a cackling King watching from his secure tower as people drown because he has lifted the draw bridge. And, at the same time he’s counting his profits from selling and exporting weapons to those same affected areas. And then he uses that money to take a cruise.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this and I find it all very discouraging. I listened to a Wade Davis podcast the other day and he said, “Pessimism is an indulgence.” That stuck with me. So now I ask:
What is my role in all of this?
I’ve encountered one exhausted, overworked, discouraged, cynical but still passionate social worker after the other. I’m not interested in taking the weight of the world upon my two shoulders, as it seems most of them have. I think we should all stop and take a deep breath once in a while, even the trains do it!
If you’ve ever travelled by train in Germany it’s likely you’ve come across this sign:
It seems unbelievable to me, that we’re just supposed to accept that, you know “today is just not that train’s day”. Why do we not extend that same grace to people?
I had a sinus infection this weekend, and then I took Monday and Tuesday off. It was great. I watched The Truman Show, and Barry, and PS I Love You and The Italian Job in two days. I slept so much. +++Claudia fällt aus+++. It’s tough to carry these burdens, among the many others, and we need to be gracious with ourselves.
What is my role?
Right now my role is to diligently do my work at the Friedenshaus and wade through the despair, seeking one glimmer of hope after the other.
I am needed where I am. It is so good that I am here now, even if it’s hard and entirely different than I thought. It lets me know good can come from any situation.
Life is a funny thing and God is somehow good. Like a warm blanket in the cold.