I have spent the last week on the island of Lesvos, Greece, working in the Moria and Kara Tepe refugee camps. Below are some reflections and thoughts.

Monday, December 31, 2019

We cooked and we danced.

As we cooked together, the meal preparation was interrupted several times by spontaneous dance to the Arabic music playing in the narrow, crowded community kitchen. As I helped cleanup, the resident who had spent so much time peeling potatoes and cooking french fries in a pan brought me a plate of food. He would not eat until I ate.

Later, we all danced again, and lit sparklers as midnight approached. When the New Year arrived, I turned and was met with warm embraces, handshakes, and well wishes. And then they danced again.

They have endured horrific hardships, and immeasurable assaults on their human dignity. They are poor in possessions, yet rich in resiliency and spirit.

As the New Year’s celebration gives way to the cold of the night and the rain of the next days, and they face such incredible uncertainties, that resiliency and spirit will again be tested.

But tonight, they cooked and danced.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

One of my favorite pictures of the kids in my Quincy neighborhood shows PJ, Kiley, Jack, and my two older boys, Chris and Tim, together, their arms draped around each other, leaning in, forming a half circle. They are all smiling. It’s a beautiful picture of beautiful children.

Yesterday, while walking through the Kara Tepe refugee camp in Lesvos, we stopped for a moment. Two precious girls who had joined us at the beginning of the walk were still wrapped in the embrace of one of our team members. Then a small group of young boys walked through our group from behind me to the other side. They turned and just so naturally put their arms around each other, leaning in, smiling, joining the half circle we had formed while listening to Adil from Movement on the Ground. They looked across and up at us.

In my eyes it was a picture of beautiful children in their neighborhood. In my thoughts it was the same picture from many years ago of my sons and friends in their neighborhood.

Same picture. Same world. But lives and futures so different.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

At night you sit and watch a sunset, and hope on the red sky that promises tomorrow’s sunshine. You close your eyes as darkness descends, and when you open them again, see whether your hope on the red sky sunset has been made real by the dawn.

Sometimes signs of hope are as obvious as a red sky sunset, and realized as soon as the next day’s dawn.

Today, watching, listening and talking all day with people committed to the dignity of all people, for me was a red sky at sunset, full of hope.

But the greatest sign of hope was not as obvious.

We met with four young men from different parts of the world, brought together here in Moria. They expressed what they feared, and shared what they hoped. At a time when it became difficult for them, one of the men, the oldest, gently put his arm around the shoulder of the youngest. A reassuring touch. That of an older brother to a younger.

A moment not as obvious as a red sky at sunset moment of hope, but nonetheless one so full of promise.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

School yards and prison yards. I grew up in the first, and many times have visited the second.

In both, reputations are made, friendships are formed, and each has an energy, though of opposite forces.

The first is good, full of promise, hope, borne of innocence, with thoughts of the other unknown. The other bad, full of resignation, despair, and bred of life’s experiences perhaps dating from the early days of the first.

Today, young children playing, running, laughing and singing, brought me back to my school yard years. Older people wearied and worn, milling about and living with wired fences brought me to my prison visits.

That I thought of a schoolyard, with children ready to go back to class and then home at day’s end, bothers me. That I thought of a prison, with prisoners kept for committing wrongs, bothers me also. For neither thought is fair. Neither thought is right.

What’s true is that the reality is not just.