Cool water laps over the smooth stones and dances at her feet.
Her fingers grope blindly at the rocks, her eyes lost far beyond the glittering horizon.
She draws back and throws another stone, and it splashes and then is lost in the clear ocean waters.
These waves seem playful today, but it is these same glittering waters that have claimed the lives of countless people, desperate to survive. No one steps into a rubber dingy because they want to. Absolute desperation presses the throngs to shove children and women on board in hopes of freedom.
Wind rustles the olive trees and the silver underside of the leaves adds color to the brown landscape. A thousand stories are whispered in the wind, too vast to be spoken audibly. Too many lives have passed through here,
too many tired orange life vests to count are piled in a heap,
too many tears to be numbered.
A woman’s eyes stare vacantly into the distance, her runny nosed toddler clambering for attention and pulling on her shawl. Her hand mindlessly grasped his small arm, but her face was frozen, too traumatized to be able to converse with her children.
“She is a good mother,” my sister tells me, “but she is shut down by the horrific things she saw.”
People beheaded by the terrorists, men mowed down, children abused.
Women raped on the shore and then forced into overfilled rafts when they had paid for a ferry. Papers stolen, passports gone.
Education and hard earned livelihoods simply vanished, and now, they are stuck behind chain link fences.
Waiting, waiting, waiting to get out. To get back to real life.
Hoping that tomorrow promised something better.
Every day is the same.
Waiting in line for papers that were promised months ago, but never appear.
Everyone is restless. Going crazy. Desperate.
This could be you.
This could be me.
“I do not think of the war,” Adnan’s words in heavily accented English speak softly.
“It is too much, I… I cannot, or I will…” The words stop, but his fingers trace the worn trail of tears down his young cheeks.
His family gone, his girlfriend murdered.
She came back, this sister of mine, but really she didn’t.
Her eyes carry a touch of that far off look, now.
Her life, too, has been shattered, and her dreams changed.
Refugees are no longer strangers; they are her friends. They have voices and stories and hands that held tightly to hers.
“Take my children to America,” they begged, desperate to give their children something, anything, better than what they are experiencing. It is not crazy parents that push their child into a rubber raft, and stand watching him until he is out of their sight; it is loving, desperate ones that cannot afford the voyage themselves.
They give him hope when they themselves have none.
The image of the small body face down at the water’s edge, someone’s child.
Someone dressed him in that red shirt, someone loved him.
There are so many lives, so many people.
But today even the small huts are no refuge.
A protest broke out yesterday, and fires were lit, quickly spreading to tents and small huts. Thousands were evacuated to the outside, while what little belongings they had burned before their eyes.
When you have lost all, to loose all over again is simply staggering.
Blessing, from Nigeria, messaged my sister, “My clothes… All burnt.”
Her small corner and bedding charred. She has nothing.
Gretta had taken Blessing to the ocean, to get out of camp for the day.
And she had grasped the stones and thrown them one by one into the ocean, releasing the pain and bitterness life had handed her. They have tasted so much bitterness.
So much loss.
My heart breaks, and words unspoken press hard. Bitter.
My happy children run and play, carefree and alive.
I wish we could go, and do something, anything.
Take clothes. Hand out food, offer to hold small ones…
What can I give? How can I ease her pain?
Her eyes look into the video camera and she says,
“In my country we have a proverb dat say, ‘God know the itch in ya shoe.” Nobody else can know the itch in ya shoe, but God, he know. He cares about you…”
We can all pray. We can all love. We can all offer hope.
Perhaps you can help send someone who can touch in a tangible way, these dear people. Maybe you can give financially.
Or maybe you can go, and touch lives yourself…
But risk your heart to love. Give, for we have received so much.
Join me, and love them.
Perhaps it is for such a time you were created.
(photo credits go to Gretta at grettagraphy.com)