What Have We Accomplished? Saying Goodbye to Istanbul by Zoë Wild
It’s 3am and we’re walking down an unusually quiet, pre-suhur city street in Fatih, past shop windows two and three stories high featuring the most intricately designed wedding dresses I’ve ever seen (my current favorite is translucent rainbow and has dragon wings). Beautiful Rosalinda my Syrian sistah from anothah mistah – turns to me, her dress swishing as she walks under the city lights. “So. How are yah feehling?” Her Syrian accents gives her English a silky, soft edge, aspirated h’s make every word plush.
“What?” pulled out of my reverie of thoughts – in an hour I leave for the airport to go home. It's always a torn feeling, simultaneously wanting to stay here with my new heart family, while also deeply desiring to be home, bare feet on the red rocks, endless hawk dotted sky above, with my beloved community and four legged family. Wanting to serve more, never finding a clean end point (how in an endless situation), and knowing I can't serve well if I don't attend to myself as well.
“Are youh feelinhg sahtisfied with whaht you’ve accomplished in yah time here?”
Wow. Good Question.
I pause. Stare at the moon. The men drinking tea and smoking. The ancient stones of the mosque we are walking past. “I feel like everything is expanding. I’m living so many questions. I feel like there’s so much I didn’t do.”
“But whaht I mean is, in just a month and a half, and some of that you were in Greece and Izmir and Lebanon– you put fifty kids in school, you started the women’s center, you put on workshops, you made it possible for women to learn Turkish and English, get a livelihood, you got furniture and a network of volunteer teachers, you got machines, you gave a boy an arm, a girl physical therapy, rent, food medicine for many other families, wheelchairs, met emergency needs, set up a food & baby supply distribution, got the school connected to potential funders, made a bracelet trade for some vulnerable women, set up infrastructure… and all this in TURKEY, where nothing ever gets done.”
“Yeah… I guess that’s not too bad.” (le sigh)
She reminds me to turn my attention from where it usually is: what else can we do? towards what we have done. My friends say I am too hard on myself. I don’t see it. Rose is wise. I would love to bring her home with me. It’s a particular pain – the pain of having more rights than the people you love so profoundly, why can I go anywhere I want and she is stuck? Because of an imaginary political line some men drew long ago. And fate?
My heart continues to open to the scope of this global happening … and it is huge. I am standing on the edge of the abyss. Breathing. Listening. Acting. Loving. Massive learning curves every day. Living to the best of my integrity. Leaping and building a rocket ship on the way down. It is fulfilling and it is humbling.
My last evening we gathered around a long table in the school yard for Iftar (dinner after a day of fasting during Ramadan) – I was late as usual which was worse because I was bringing most of the food! I cracked some jokes as I hurriedly loaded food onto plates, so at least they were laughing and hungry. In the post dinner bliss we went deep into conversation. The principal caught my eyes in the low light:
“You have brought us many things. More things than we could ever thank you for. But most of all – you have brought back joy and hope into our hearts again. You are the light. You have taught us to smile again, after a long time of darkness. You have reminded us of who we used to be, who we really are.”
I see the nods. I try to stop the wall of tears and just hear the words. Like after Lesvos, this is my lesson – that for all the humanitarian aid and all the structure, money and future possibilities our work provides – the most important thing is the love. The happiness. The jokes. The companionship. The soul saying – I see you, I know you, you are my family, without having to do or be anything, I love you. We are in this together. I fail at stopping the tears.
I can’t say how much I admire these people. Khaled. Rosalinda. Tagreed. Fatima. Khadeja. Iman. Hena. Besher. Hisham. Ali. Rebekah. Jacqui. Laura. Molly. Jeffrey Kyle. Sam. Gab. Stephany. Shaz. Saleh. Anne. Zabih. Mabel. Ali. Ali. Otis. Adil. Alison. Maria. Alex. Bilal. Mohammed. Munir. Canan. Omron. Alex. Georgios. Mousaee. Abdallah. So many more. Too many to mention. They have heart through unbearable darkness, impeccable integrity, treating all people with respect no matter how they are treated, profoundly committed to kindness, unending generosity, selfless service, tireless work ethic, big picture thinking while attending to a million details every day, and living the light inside them with humility before the great mystery of life.
Thank you. Thank you for trusting me, when you had been burned so many times. Thank you for sharing yourself with me and the rest of the world. Thank you for your courage. I admire each of you so much, and I have learned so much from you. I am a better person for knowing you.
I gather up my friends here like beautiful flowers floating on the bosphorus in the moonlight. I scoop them into my heart. I hold them close. You are a part of me now and forever. Illaa al’abad. We have shaped each other in ways the ripples of which are yet to be seen. You are my family. Te'berni. I would not want to live in a world without you.
Kindness ~ Naomi Shihab Nye
Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth. What you held in your hand, what you counted and carefully saved, all this must go so you know how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness. How you ride and ride thinking the bus will never stop, the passengers eating maize and chicken will stare out the window forever. Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness, you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho lies dead by the side of the road. You must see how this could be you, how he too was someone who journeyed through the night with plans and the simple breath that kept him alive. Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. You must wake up with sorrow. You must speak to it till your voice catches the thread of all sorrows and you see the size of the cloth. Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, only kindness that ties your shoes and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread, only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world to say it is I you have been looking for, and then goes with you everywhere like a shadow or a friend.
Ma'a Salama, toward the One Light with infinite love and gratitude, Zoë
#oneworld #onefamily #onelightglobal