REFUGEE SUPPORT STORY, Day 5: Today was a day for the women, for the fierce mamas

Their husbands and eldest sons were invited to watch the ’92 Barcelona team play, so the ladies had camp to themselves today.

It was a BIG day for the men and boys, too.

Can you imagine being a soccer-loving kid here and, after everything you’ve experienced recently, you’re given a day playing big-deal soccer and then after, watch a pro team play, all the while, wearing new soccer cleats? Get out.

Today, after seeing the guys leave on buses, we said hi to the women leaving the Female Friendly Space who just had knitting class. This was the same space I came to and quickly joined in on 10 minutes of a yoga and dance class yesterday.

There’s a lot weighing on these minds, but whenever we passed each other over the last five days, they would always find a way to weave in a huge smile (gorgeous women, gorgeous smiles, fierce mamas).

I worked in the women’s boutique most the day organizing clothes that came in, so next week when I’m not here, it’s easier for ladies to find clothes that keep them warm, and, hopefully, also make them feel beautiful.

We want them to feel beautiful and honored — (see Day 3’s share about dignity).

To close out the week, late this afternoon, I, myself, felt honored to visit families off campus about 40 kilometers away who had delivered babies days before.

They were happy to have us visit, bring some groceries and introduce their babies to us (when you have a baby here, you deliver in the hospital, then live in an apartment for the first couple months).

I’m grateful my cousin Shannon, a fierce mama to many, made this afternoon happen. She’s doing an outstanding job here.

We had coffee at one of the homes, and I sat on the floor talking to the family, where the children, once again, translated for us.

The topics were, of course, how many babies I had (all were shocked I only had one), where I lived and where I was “from-from” (they would always point to their skin and face and ask which always made me smile).

I filled with more gratitude that equal to being loved by family.

And, this week could be described as exactly that — familial, in unique and unexpected ways familiar, and full of feeling, all kinds of them.

It’s a small world after all and, though we may sometimes forget or be distracted by what we look like, no matter who we are and where we live, we all have the same ones — feelings.

Love from the road,

michelle-black-sig-md-light

 

 

 

REFUGEE SUPPORT STORY, Day 4: Soul School.

The human road ain’t easy.

And yet, sometimes, you catch a break, and complete strangers or foreign countries (Greece for the refugees) remind you of the compassion that exists within each of our skin suits that refills the reserve of hope and healing.

You might catch a shower break, a snack break as you build your fire in the cold of Filippiada’s Winter or the biggest break yet which means your children, forced two to seven months ago from their country and homes, have been approved by the Greek government to, finally, go to school.

Today, in the large tent at camp, the parents received the formal paperwork to make this a reality. I was moved to tears.

It’s not yet sitting alongside Greek children, but it’s a step in the right direction (they’ll attend from 2-6pm when the local kids are gone).

More good news — they’ll be headed to school in new (but, used) boots which we made sure to walk or even run in, so we knew they were comfortable. They loved running and trying to beat me (which they did).

The news of school becoming a reality and sitting today with the remaining men, teenage boys or little boys and girls who still needed shoes or rain boots, then seeing them walk (or run) out relieved, once again, moved me to tears.

The young men are still the group who have affected me most this week, see Day 1’s share.

There are no adequate words for how it feels to share in or create moments with this community. It’s motivated me to make sure that more of us experience what it’s like to add generosity (of spirit) to our (human) business model. And, as importantly, what it’s like to feel ourselves simultaneously receiving, while we give, see Day 2’s share.

I’ve needed and wanted to get my hands dirty for a while, particularly around the refugee crisis, and, though I am heading home soon, I’m keen not to wash them anytime soon…

Love from the road,

michelle-black-sig-md-light

 

 

 

REFUGEE SUPPORT STORY, Day 3: Dignity in difficult situations

Today, I was part of the welcoming community for those coming in to shop and I also worked helping more men find boots or sports shoes they felt good in.

Refugee Support’s goal is dignity; to make the families and individuals here feel dignified in their experience.

How can we make things feel better for those who are marginalized or forced from their homes and from their beloved children, wives, sisters, brothers or mothers?

No rummaging through boxes is one way. (I can’t call it small because nothing done with love is small).

What they’ve created in what used to be a stark warehouse is incredible. The women’s, men’s and children’s boutique, as well as the “shoe-tique”, are filled to the brim with love.

There are dressing rooms, mirrors and benches to sit on while trying on shoes and organization that feels…so…good.

I admire those who have worked so hard to create these spaces. Many of those in the community have mentioned how it’s made them feel and it matches the overall goal.

To feel seen and as welcome as they would in their favorite shop back home. In other words, to feel as seen and welcome as we all deserve.

While they’re in the shops, we chat, we help them find what they feel good in, we hold divine beings called babies (see last share), and we are together in one short moment or many short moments strung together throughout some days, that may seem little to some, but that are anything but.

At the end of the day, a couple of us joined in to stretch and dance with the men and children of the community (the older 20-something’s led the 5-something’s).

Nearby, too, some of the men were practicing breakdance moves, and one of the moves looked identical to my favorite yoga pose, so, I joined in.

They thought it was funny, kindly told me I wasn’t doing the move quite right and continued smiling showing everyone what they knew.

This stretch — is life.

I hope for all of us to stretch so much that we create a bridge of understanding between two distinct lands [of thought, or beliefs], one that allows all to cross and continue to stretch and live, live and stretch.

This dance is also life.

It begs of us to dance even when we don’t hear the music.

Love from the road,

michelle-black-sig-md-light

 

 

 

REFUGEE SUPPORT STORY, Day 1, The surprise of the day: The men.

Click this link for short video.

You think you’ll walk into a situation like this and your heart will ache for the youngest of babies and children, and, though, of course, it does, and the older boys seem to occupy the space inside today that, like a scanner, eagerly searches for the black and white of a solution.

Being displaced like this, or, as I even think to other parts of the world, where men are coined different or feel different in a community (of what may feel like) sameness, I see, once again, today, that they need to feel a part of something — specifically and literally — active in their search (for more) and in their experience.

Our community’s happiness comes quickest when our (young) men who grow to be the men in our families, inner cities, companies, jail cells, classrooms or governing bodies feel worthy, listened to, and when they can put their full talents and skills to use in a positive way; in a way that society benefits from, where they can ultimately, see their efforts, turned into energy used for the whole.

I am moved by how we can further relate to the men in our lives, our rocks, our romantics, our pillars of strength, our men-turned-boys in sorrow, our doers, darers and problem solvers.

Let us pay more attention to our men — young and old, alike. Women, wives, daughters, sisters, mothers, what are they really saying by their actions? Might we ask how they’re doing and not take ‘ok’ for an answer so easily? Do they truly feel heard? Do they occupy their time with the things that help them feel on purpose, a part of society and a part of the family? Just as we want it for them, do they have planned moments in their day or week to enjoy community vs. just work? In short, from the time they are young, do we love them in the ways they feel most loved and do we express that in the relationships they grow up watching?

Today, I walked camp giving out tickets to the men in each tent (most, now turned pod, as the winter months are coming) which meant they could come “shop” for jackets, pants and shoes.

They passionately asked if they would find their size this time (they really wanted to find their size this time), or told us stories of losing their brothers, leaving their parents or children behind, or of their families’ shoes being stolen the night before.

I also watched as little boys ages six, nine or eleven years old easily stepped in as their family’s leader, answering questions from us in English their parents couldn’t answer (something else etched in my cells from today ~> children ARE our future — shall we treat them as such now vs. trying to “fix” them later?).

The same boys would also eagerly step forward to help in other ways, like quickly running to grab the ID card their parents had forgotten in their tent or pod.

Beyond the simple smile or quick rub of the head, as you do to a boy who just hit a home run or made a basket, I wish I could have told them: I saw how you did that. I can feel the love and power you hold inside by how you so obviously give all you have, even when it’s uncomfortable, to those you care about (and, even to those you may not know yet or fully understand).

At the end of the day, I asked myself if I could, more honestly and deeply, walk even a minute more in the stories of the lives of the men I love. And if I did, would I be able to love them deeper, or, in other words, in the ways that most matters to them?

On the Supermoon tonight, there’s nowhere else I would rather be than with this answer, in these thoughts and with these men and with the women and children they would so clearly give their lives for, and have.

To my brother, father, husband, sun and to all the brothers, fathers, husbands and suns I met today, I acknowledge your life experience and want to ask you even more often, how are you today?

And, just in case, those words don’t happen to cross my lips, may I continue to look at you in a way, every day, as if to say, thank you for all you do in the name of love that I may not always fully acknowledge.

Love from the road,

michelle-black-sig-md-light