I looked out of the window recently and saw a woman bending down to tie her young child's shoelace. Her hair was not visible, as she wore a blue scarf that was tied around her head and neck, so all I could see was the worried look on her face. For a moment I saw life through her eyes.
Running across the sands, she had fled from her war torn country and now she was free, able to taste the soft, fresh air on her lips and the sweet orange that I promptly offered her as I made my way to the store to buy some milk and bread. I motioned for her to follow me but she was not sure if she should. Fear flickered in her eyes, so I told her to wait and used what sign language I could to let her know I would be back soon. When I returned with a few things in a bag for her, she fell to her feet as though I were a savior. All I had done was offer her something to eat so I embarrassedly waved at her, just after motioning that she need not bow as we were both humans in need, and left, feeling a tug in my heart.
The situation of course is tragic in that she is not one person but one of many who sit waiting in the hot spots all over Greece, waiting for freedom, waiting for peace, waiting for change, and a meal or warm coat as winter approaches. Although my heart goes out to all of them, I cannot help finding myself paying more attention though to the changed streets of Athens, where shops I once loved to visit, are now bare and locked up, with a window pane broken here or there. As I consciously look around me I notice how many people are huddled over garbage bins, rummaging inside looking for food that had been thrown out or crusts of dry pizza and old expired tins that someone had just got rid of that morning.
It does not seem possible that a nation brought to its knees and struggling to survive should be offering food, clothing and shelter to strangers who have come from another land and yet, they are. Barack Obama in his recent touching speech about Democracy in Athens spoke with eloquence and meaning, calling this filotimo, the friend of honor. I do not know however, what is honorable; to have no food and to be rummaging in a green dustbin or to be sharing what little food one has managed to cook while so many others around are also hungry. Without wanting to conclude which was better or judge whether something was right or wrong, I simply found myself reflecting on life. I thought about those countries who had closed their borders with great fences and others who shared similar belief systems and cultures, and appeared to have had done nothing much to help their brothers and sisters. I could not find a logical explanation why a nation in need, would be rendering help to other nations in need, and so concluded that perhaps it was because they clearly understood what it means to have nothing.
Perhaps we do attract what we are inside of us and the Greek people need to take advantage of the opportunity given to them to take responsibility for their present crisis, instead of blaming politicians or waiting for a savior. However, the voices of the people in Greece need to be heard worldwide, so countries able to offer more to all those in need, can consciously recognize their own need for filotimo. Perhaps the Greek people need to extend this filotimo to the world as a gift they know well about, so it becomes the breath and essence that resonates in the heart of all men, women and children all over the globe. As we are all in need of something, if we can truly recognize and understand the meaning of support those in need, filotima will naturally be born within.