I'm Glad I'm Here
Someone asked me last week, "How is your volunteer trip going?" I've been quiet. Not because I have nothing to say, trust me--there's a lot that's been happening, but more so because there hasn't been as much time to sit and write. Or I'm simply too exhausted to. Or more often than not, there's so much to say and share, I struggle with where to start.
It's going. Up and down. It's tough but rewarding. Definitely exhausting both mentally and physically. I'm a bag full of feelings. I'm constantly going between gratitude and guilt and confusion and joy and sadness--constantly. Tears are a constant here. They may not be shared but they happen: tears of joy, tears of frustration, tears of exhaustion, tears from being overwhelmed, tears from the cold. There are so many thoughts and emotions about everything from the actual work to organizations/NGOs to people--it's chaos at it's finest. I'm glad I'm here, though I'd be lying if I said I haven't thought about going home. How fortunate am I to even have that option?
The babies are the best and worst. Best in the sense that they're really cute and universal--I can't resist playing with them! Worst because sometimes it's harder to get them to smile...and I haven't seen a single pudgy baby yet. Many of them have trouble eating (maybe from the journey?) or they don't have steady access to food. Every time I see a baby I think of all of the amazing babies I have in my life and my heart breaks a little more. But then they smile at you and grab your finger and you think maybe, just maybe, things will end up being okay.
There are good things as well. There are the unexpected hugs and kisses you get. There's that look of understanding bridges any language gaps. There are the moments where you just connect and laugh, and for a split-second you forget why we're here and just enjoy the company. Some days it's overwhelming and you think how am I even making a difference? But then you see the smiles on people's faces and their sincere gratitude and while I might not be changing the world, I've made a difference--we've made a difference, to this one person and for the time being, that will have to do.
She said something to me that resonated with me, not just in this situation, but good advice for life in general: "It's important for you as a change agent/volunteer to take care of yourself as well. Don't pour out yourself without refilling your mind and spirit as well." (It completely goes back to an earlier post about taking time for myself.) You guys are what's helping refill my mind and my spirit.
I have always known that I have some of the best people in the whole wide world in my circle. I am overwhelmed, but not surprised, by the generosity you have shown. Whether it's sending me messages of love and support, or sharing my stories with your own circle to bring awareness to what's happening here, or donating your hard-earned money towards the refugee crisis, it all makes a difference. We have raised $9,987 dollars in just over a month and I've only spent half of it so far, though I have ideas for how the rest of it will be spent. It's gone towards warm clothing to stock the clothing distribution tents (it's dipped to below freezing and people are sleeping outside in tents with no heat). I feel cold and I've been wearing a minimum of 3 layers from my socks to my neck on a daily basis. It's gone towards buying firewood for the nightly bonfire for boat patrol. The bonfire serves as a light on the horizon for boats to use as a guiding point, it serves as a gathering point for volunteers who stay up all night ready to aid and welcome any incoming boats, it serves as a make-shift warming center with tea and coffee for volunteers and those coming off of boats until the buses arrive to take them to camp. It's gone towards toys and coloring books to give to kids, to help them smile and laugh and simply be a kid again. You made this happen. You're making a difference.
So here I am. 20 days into my time here in Lesvos with 5 more days to go before I start making the long trek back to the USA. (Lots of you have sent me love and hugs and support from afar--I'll be back soon and look forward to collecting on all of those.) I'm determined to make these last few days count, for me, for all of you, and especially for those who are in need of our love and care. Until then, here's to making a difference, one pair of socks, one toy, one kind word, one thing at a time.