Perfect words written by volunteer Christina McDonald-Legg exactly a year ago:
“The day after I left Lesvos I heard a refugee boat had sunk as it tried to cross to Greece. The bodies of seven children, the youngest just 20 days old, later washed ashore. I was devastated.
I’d returned from Greece thinking how absolutely amazing humanity was. That maybe, just maybe there was hope. I knew I wasn’t going to change anything big picture, but I felt hopeful. I was happy, the sort of happiness that fools you into thinking that everything will be ok. To read that more children had died, little babies who were innocent of humanity’s wars, was like a slap in my face.
I went about my day in a daze, feeling sick at everything I have: the cup of Starbucks coffee warming my hands, my house with central heating, my warm, dry shoes and socks, safety. I went Christmas shopping for my children, which, by the way, felt absolutely gross after volunteering in Lesvos. I felt helpless and angry and, I’ll admit, a bit like what was the point?
But then I saw a post by Dan Teuma, a lovely guy I met in Lesvos, that reminded me how important it is to help despite these losses. It reminded me that we can’t give up. The people you DO help, it matters to them. Dan collected pinecones to help a number of refugee families in Lesvos build fires to keep warm. He made that one night better for those people. “Just because it is a shit situation,” he said. “doesn’t mean we should lose our humanity and not be ourselves.”
Maybe we haven’t changed anything big picture. We can’t and probably won’t, as individuals, change policy. I’ll be the first to admit that finding a political answer is complex and filled with so many pitfalls. But doing nothing—apathy and indifference—THAT is the real danger. It is so, so vital that we don’t close our hearts and lose sight of the needs of the world’s most desperate people. You, every single one of you, can help make a shit situation just a little bit better by focusing on each person, the human faces behind each story. That’s how we win. That’s how we keep sight of our essential human response throughout this tragedy.
I read this book years ago called ‘Pay it Forward.’ You may have seen the movie. It’s about a young boy who sets out on a mission to change the world by repaying good deeds with new good deeds. This sets in motion more kindness that has a ripple effect expanding outwards like drops in a pond. I think the way we respond to this humanitarian crisis is much the same.
The point, I’ve learned, is kindness. I needed to be reminded of it—we all do from time to time. Kindness will wash over a parched and cracked heart. It will bring people back from the brink of anger and cruelty. Maybe we can’t save the world, but we can affect what is around us. If we show kindness to these people who so desperately need it, it will start a ripple effect that makes our world a better place.
Even if you can’t go to Lesvos and you don’t have the funds to donate, change starts with you. I don’t mean for this to sound cheesy or trite. But I challenge you, I encourage you, to spread kindness every day. We can’t change the world just by talking about it. We must be the example others see. Be the kindness that others experience.
As the spirit of Christmas dawns on us, let’s remember to be a little kinder. Acts of kindness (random or otherwise) are like stepping stones to making the world a better place. Hold the door for a mum with her arms full, help the elderly person struggling to cross the street. Smile – it is the least expensive give you can give. All of us together, like #dropsintheocean, will make the difference in what the history books write about our time.”
One year on and we’re on our way to Greece to visit our amazing co-founder Dan Teuma who has gone from collecting pine cones to rescue missions in the Mediterannean, to managing our whole Greece team. We’re about to install Wifi which will connect thousands of refugees, enabling them to speak to their families this Christmas.