When I was in college in California in the 60s, my parents lived on Oahu. I spent a couple of summers there. I acted in a couple of Gilbert and Sullivan musicals in the community of Kailua. That was where I met Jenean, a local girl also in the cast. She was 16 and I was 19 and we became good friends, sharing laughs and dreams and "deep conversations". Years later I lost my address book in one of my moves, and Jenean's information was among the missing. Two years ago, while vacationing on Hawaii, I suddenly remembered the unusual spelling of Jenean's name. I looked her up on Facebook. She now lives in the Bay Area and works for Facebook! We had a long FB conversation and decided to get together when she traveled to Tacoma, where her mother currently lives. So far, that hasn't happened.
Several years ago I hosted a couchsurfer named Stacey, who lives in Fairfield, Iowa. Stacey was traveling up the West Coast looking for venues to display her artwork. My husband Art was out of town, so Stacey and I spent a couple of evenings talking at our dining room table. A year or so later, Art and I took a road trip to Iowa and Stacey hosted us in her beautiful off-the-grid place. We became Facebook friends soon after.
Last September Art and I took a trip to Eastern Europe. Our travel plans happened to intersect, in Budapest and Salzburg, with many refugees from Syria and other countries. You can read about those encounters here:
When we got back, I couldn't get those refugees out of my mind. I wondered if I was supposed to help refugees in some way, whether as a mediator or otherwise. When we were in Tucson I looked for opportunities to help Mexican immigrants, but didn't find any that were a good fit.
At the same time, Stacey was posting about her experiences working as a volunteer in Lesvos, Greece. Stacey is a second-generation Greek-American so I'm pretty sure that's why she was there.
So. One evening last weekend I was on Facebook and I noticed that Jenean was online. I asked her what was up and she said, "I've just finished making my travel arrangements for a weeklong trip to Lesvos, Greece in August. I feel like I'm being called to help there as a volunteer."
I remembered the refugees I'd seen. Without my usual thoughtful caution I said, "Can I go with you?" Jenean said yes, that I was the only one she had told who had asked if they could go.
I asked Jenean where she was planning on volunteering. I know the refugee situation in Greece is pretty fluid, and I wanted to be reasonably certain we wouldn't just be turning up on Lesvos hoping to find some refugees to help. Jenean said she'd heard from a friend about an organization there called "Dirty Girls", where volunteers are washing the clothes and blankets of the arriving refugees. She thought that would be a good place to start inquiring. I suggested she friend Stacey on Facebook. Within five minutes, the two of them were friends.
I found the Dirty Girls Facebook page. And scrolling down, who should I see smiling from the page but my friend Stacey!
I messaged Stacey and told her what Jenean and I had in mind. I asked how we could volunteer. Stacey suggested I friend Alison, the founder of Dirty Girls. So I did.
My plan is to meet Jenean in Paris and fly on to Athens and then Lesvos. We'll have a car and a comfortable place to sleep at night. We'll be there for a little less than a week. It will be hot and humid - my least favorite kind of weather - but I can do anything for a short time. Besides, the refugees have no choice.
This is about the least-planned trip I've ever taken. I guess I'm learning to trust the process.
I guess Jenean and I will have plenty of time to catch up!
Synchronicity usually means I'm supposed to learn and grow. So, once again, I'll say yes.
Setting Out from Independence
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