“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” ~Miriam Adeney
I sincerely apologize for my lengthy absence. Although I’m home from my recent journey throughout Turkey, Israel, Egypt, and Greece, a part of my soul remains. Each faltering attempt to convey my experience has left my heart further fragmented. How do I adequately describe human suffrage at depths I’ve never known — and never will? I gravitate toward positivity, but doing so temps me to replace reality with photo-ops like the one featured. Expertly orchestrated. Perfectly contrived. We so wanted to aid our Egyptian guide’s cause. A man who sat knee-to-knee with us atop well-worn, ornate prayer rugs inside Cairo’s Alabaster Mosque and elicited tears by sharing ardent family traditions, religious misconceptions, political frustrations, and dreams he’d likely never achieve (but maybe his son would one day). This 14-hour excursion with our charismatic Egyptian friend touched us on so many levels, compelling us to paint Cairo as a grand destination — and yet…
Just six days before our guide snapped this photo, he’d lost his close friend — a fellow guide who was inadvertently killed by his country’s own military when they mistook him and the Mexican tour group he was leading for ISIS while they picnicked in the Bahariya Oasis. Hence the reason the pyramids were virtually empty. Tourism had already plummeted post-2011 revolution and was just beginning to make a teensy resurgence. Unfortunately, the Russian airliner bombing truncated an already meager recovery.
And that’s just one story…
How can I forget the haunting despair of staring into the eyes of malnourished, shoeless orphaned refugee children in Istanbul? Or strolling the sweltering, dusty, potholed, garbage-filled streets of Alexandria, strewn with butchered animal carcasses bleeding right next to pedestrian traffic? Or passing heavily armed police men and women along the impoverished, graffitied, sand-coated, apocalyptic-looking back roads of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv?
I promised myself then and there that I would never complain about “first world problems” again. But, back in my comfortable surroundings, how swiftly I’ve rejoined the choir, eagerly adding my own petty verses. Why?? I’ve never been oppressed, persecuted, or brainwashed by my government. I’ve never stressed over where my next morsel of food or sip of clean water might come from. I’ve never had to speculate where I might sleep, much less wonder if I’d live to see another day in the manner countless big-hearted, hard-working, beautiful souls around our globe do every single day.
Bidding an emotional farewell to our Egyptian friend, we confessed how inconsequential we felt. How we wished we could do more to help. “Your presence here means everything,” he said, embracing us like lifelong friends.
Sadly, since our September trip, ISIS and its evil predecessors appear to be growing more emboldened daily, stealing innocent lives, destroying families, raping, pillaging and ravishing livelihoods in the region we visited and beyond. With each bloody news alert, I think of the hospitable, gregarious, respectful people we encountered, from Cairo schoolboys flocking around me to take selfies, to the young women smiling curiously from behind colorful hijabs, to the gentleman rescuing us in Alexandria when our animated map-pointing failed to secure three taxi drivers in a row — and a plethora of generous souls in between.
An open heart is humanity’s greatest resource, mutual compassion bridging two very different worlds.
Suffice to say, a part of my soul remains….