It has been more than two years since I first arrived on the Greek island of Lesvos where overloaded boats brought refugees to the island’s windy beaches. The people in the boats were mostly young and many were children — wet, cold and hungry, escaping war and persecution in their home countries. Continue reading
I spent most of my fall in Athens even though it is not the kind of place I would normally want to visit for more than a day or two. Athens is a train wreck — dirty, ugly, full of hazards like slippery sidewalks, crazy drivers and railings on sixth floor verandas that are easily scaled by ambitious toddlers. Continue reading
My 90 day visa is up and the rules say I have to leave Europe. I am not ready to leave. Greece has meant so much to me, a place of beauty, community, philosophy and kindness. Continue reading
The Greek word “philoxenia” is literally translated as “friend of strangers” but its essential meaning is “generosity of spirit.” I have experienced this Greek value every day in Molyvos for the past two months. In addition to having flowering pastures, dramatic hillsides, sheep bells clanging through the valleys, amazing food and beautiful beaches, Molyvos is home to some of the most friendly, caring people I have ever met.
My hero, Pope Francis, came to Lesvos on my birthday. He was not visiting me personally, as you might guess, but his visit felt personal. He came because so many victims of war, oppression and persecution are not getting the benefit of global leadership that treats them according to Christian values. Or Jewish values. Or Muslim values. Or Hindu, Buddhist, Sufi, Shinto, B’hai, Crips and Bloods values.
Today, I took the long and winding road to Mantamados, a hill town on the northeast part of Lesvos. I found out about it the Greek way — from locals — because everything and everyone on Lesvos is somehow connected.
It is very hard to comprehend what has happened on the Island of Lesvos in a very short time. For more than a year, Lesvos was a place of kindness and generosity to half a million refugees. Local residents and international volunteers scrounged up resources with almost no help from government or large NGOs. Food, sanitation and shelter were inadequate but compassion and mutual understanding were in abundant supply.
I returned to Lesvos today after a week at the Port of Piraeus in Athens. Lesvos has changed. Continue reading