“Philotimo” refers to a set of Greek values that might be described as a drive for goodness that transcends self-interest. Lesvos has way more than its share.
The volunteers here work 12 hour shifts and don’t eat regular meals. They take care of each other. They have done such a good job of taking care of the land, you would hardly know that almost 500,000 homeless people have passed through here in the past year.
Welsh ex-pats, Eric and Philippa Kempson are local heroes as leaders of the efforts to support the refugees. Their idyllic stone house across from Eftalou Beach is headquarters for a lot of the work on the Northern part of the island. Their yard has an artist’s workshop, olive trees and dozens of stacks of plastic boxes of warm clothes, diapers and medical supplies.
The non-local volunteers are mostly European, mostly young. They live in a handful of local hotels that offer them special rates. The Belvedere, where I am staying, has also donated a room called the Watchtower that overlooks the water where volunteers look for boats through telescopes 24 hours a day. Because the hotels are not normally open in winter, the rooms do not have adequate heating for the freezing weather here this week. No one seems to notice but me.
One of my neighbors at the hotel is Cookie ,who left her job and gave up her house in England to volunteer here full time. She expressed gratitude to the refugees for teaching her what is important in her life.
This morning I took the 6am shift along Eftalou Beach. I was alone because of a miscommunication between the volunteers. I listened to a podcast of “This American Life” and checked my whatsapp every few minutes for notices of boat sightings. Because of the extremely cold weather, no boats have arrived for two days, which is very rare — the average on Lesvos in December was about 2,000 refugees a day.
While I sat in my car in the dark, a car full of young men on their way to the next watch station stopped to see how I was doing. Satisfied with my response, the driver put the car into gear and nodded: “You look like you are alone but you are not. God is with you.”
— from the Hebrew Mishnah, meaning “repair of the world”
Thanks to Gary Mankin for sharing this phrase