About a year ago, I was walking along the road by the Athens Sea with my father. It was a hot day and the sun was high in the sky. I was licking a pink ice-cream cone and my hair was done up in a top knot away from my shoulders and face to avoid the heat. My chin was up, looking at all of the beautiful architecture and people surrounding me. I was breathing in the city and living in the moment. A bunch of happy people belonging to a happy story. My father and I decided to return to our family at the beach. We turned a corner into an alleyway and I was suddenly stopped cold in my tracks.
Fifty feet in front of me sat a small girl. Her hair and face covered in dirt. Her back was arched inward submissively. She was dressed in a torn abaya with a thin scarf placed loosely around her shoulders. Even though she was fully covered, it was obviously she was extremely underweight and malnourished. She couldn’t have been more than thirteen years old. Her cheekbones jutted out and her eyes lay gaunt in her face. There was a cup in front of her and her expression was one of desperation and despair. However, the most tragic part of this picture was what lay in her bird-like arms, a new born baby that could not have been more than 3 weeks old.
I was taken aback and stung. A sharp inhale and abrupt pause alerted my father to my feelings. She was so young. She was supposed to be enjoying years of innocence, but they were robbed from her. The image of her triggered a memory of a special I had seen on the news weeks before, concerning the current situation of Syrian refugees. I have been born into a happy story due to luck. In another life she could be my sister, my mother, my friend, or me. Even though she was nothing to me personally, after that moment she was. My heart felt her pain and her struggle. She was a victim. She needed help. I have never witnessed such a scene of desperation in all my life.
I walked to her and got down on my knees. I looked at her and noticed a deep scar on her face from her eye to her lip. I thought it wasn’t possible for the empathy to dig any deeper, but I was wrong. I swallowed and looked down clearing my throat. I reached into my purse and pulled out the money in my wallet. “You need this more than I do.” I said softly pressing it into her outreached hand. I was pretty sure she didn’t speak English, but the comment was more a message to myself anyway. “God bless” escaped her lips in a thick accent. As I was standing up my father knelt down and repeated my action. She looked at the bills in her hand and a tear trickled down her cheek. I was struck by how something small could mean that much to her. As we were walking away my head was spinning like a top on a table. We left the alleyway and descended back to the world of happy people in happy stories in the bright flow of the city. Physically I had left, but mentally I couldn’t have been more there.
The Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, and Iraq refugee’s are a global crisis. It could be any of us. The fact that eighty percent of the world lives impoverished is a tragedy. It is our responsibility as a planet to look out and care for our brothers and sisters. I was struck by the reality that this responsibility is mine personally.
I believe that within me I have the power to instill and create change. I believe one person can bring global awareness that touches the hearts of thousands, if not millions. I believe an impoverished nation has the ability to rise up and be strong.
These are the reason why I chose to join One World Center’s program partnering with Humana People to People. I cannot sit back and pretend I don’t see what’s right in front of me. I can’t dismiss the passion burning so deeply within me it could shoot fire works on the fourth of July. I am here to give all of myself. I am here to devote myself to making a change in the lives of those who need it the most. To save the person, the community, the nation, and eventually the world.
Written by: Diana Leavitt – August 2016 Team