Be Happy to be a Band-Aid

Often times in Moria, I’ve found myself wishing I was trained more in trauma counseling or psychosocial support. Every day I walk into a place full of people in pain. Real pain. They have seen and experienced things that nightmares are made of. I’ve known children who were orphaned when their houses were bombed and fell on their families. I’ve met people who have been abused, abandoned, raped, beaten, whipped, and almost killed in various ways. I’ve been called to help when a teenager was having a severe PTSD panic episode, and watched the faces of his friends try to keep it together while holding him down to keep him from hurting himself. Then there’s my friend who was a psychologist and social worker in Syria and was imprisoned for disagreeing with madmen dictators. Several years later his first precious son was born with deformities as a result of chemical gas attacks from that same dictator, and one month later they left behind their multiple homes and were forced to flee the home country and seek safety elsewhere. I’ve watched as children try to understand multiple languages, and aren’t sure which is theirs. Today I heard a child be triggered by an argument over a toy with another child, and I saw him scream and yell and hit, and in an instant, become a seemingly different boy. Multiple adults tried to get him to come to his senses but it only got worse until I finally pulled him away. He continued yelling and hitting me until I wrapped my arms around him in a tight hug and didn’t let go, and then he almost instantly melted back into his sweet self. Then there’s my friend whose family was threatened with death threats from the Taliban, and had to flee from their home country, and then he was separated from his family at a border crossing. That was over two years ago. The list could go on and on, and I’m sure I haven’t heard the worse of it.

When named one after the other, this list becomes almost overwhelmingly depressing. And yet day after day I wake up early, anxious in the morning to get to Camp Moria to see this new family of mine. They are resilient and strong, and the humanity and unity we share strengthens my heart. And as I go about attending meetings, partnering with other organizations, coordinating our different education classes and social activities, and seeing volunteers heroically give their love and hearts to the people, I feel happy to be doing what I’m doing, for I truly believe in the power of loving the one. One day a refugee told me, “you care, but you’re just one helper. Just one. What can you do?” I am just one, but experiences I’ve had loving the one have been the most fulfilling of my life. But every now and again I used to feel a sadness when I would look around and realize that me, my team, and our efforts are just a band-aid. I never let it really get me down, but it sometimes wasn’t the greatest feeling either. However, after three months, my perspective is a little different on band aids, because band aids stop the bleeding. And I believe that we help each day to figuratively “stop the bleeding.” I’ve done a fair amount of wound care here lately, and in Moria, where sewage runs open in the street, and disease and infection are prevalent, I use a lot of bandages. Cuts and burns I wouldn’t normally cover, I do in Moria, to keep it from getting worse, and to instead send it in the direction of healing. Those bandages are crucial. So when I hear someone say that efforts are “just a band aid,” I know that they are anything but “just.” At least I hope. Because I would be honored if anything I’ve done here helped to “stop the bleeding,” to send someone in the direction of healing, or just to give them the strength and energy to press on.

A little bit ago I found some design adult coloring books in our bin and I became interested in art therapy. I knew it could be fun and relaxing, but not sure if there was any science behind it, I began to read a few articles and research a bit. I learned that the benefits are great. Not only is it a wonderful tool to help focus the mind, it can also reduce anxiety and mood disorders and help to reactivate positive emotions, self worth, and self esteem. And who doesn’t need that!  So, I got out the sketch pads and design coloring books. Very quickly people came to our table. One boy who always seemed so serious sat with us quiet for 2 hours and colored the most beautiful design.

There was a peace at the table as everyone sat focused on their drawings, listening to a peaceful instrumental playlist I created. Peace, solitude, positivity and quiet are difficult things to find in Moria, and it was beautiful to witness. One woman, a midwife from Afghanistan, loves to join. She usually colors pictures or designs of women, and colors them in ways that she feels depicts the situation of women in Afghanistan. One of my happiest moments was when a boy joined who the previous time I had seen him, was having an anxiety attack. He didn’t say much, but his face was peaceful as he focused on his drawing, and he LOVED the music. The feeling at the table was different than the feeling usually found in Moria.

The eyes sitting there focusing on their pages were eyes that have seen so much of the evil this world offers up. As I watched them together peaceful, and encouraging each other on their drawings, I was inspired by the strength of the human heart and its ability to press on. Some of the most beautiful expressions of humanity I have seen have been in this refugee camp. More than anything I’ve been reminded how much love (and maybe some coloring) heals. We must never forget that we don’t know the story behind the face, and we must never assume we do. Everyone has his or her path to walk, and we all need a band aid somewhere along the way. May we each live with more hope, tolerance, and compassion. Then love will shine from our eyes. And drop by drop, the world will be a better place.