Outside a small village in Italy, I eat juicy fresh tomatoes like candy on the shore of a lake. Surrounded by mountains so old, even they look a little worn by time. Their shoulders slumped, their peaks rounded, but their presence astounding. Every day waking slowly to a cappuccino, a pastry, and a walk through a town where everyone knows each other.
In Barcelona, quirky artists sing their songs in city squares, hauling around their instruments for the sake of people's spare change. Even in subways, the poor repetitive performance of Despacito is enough to crack a smile in me. On the shore of the ocean, older women stand topless in seeming peace. What's their motivation- maybe to continually feel young and alive? Even as the days move slower, what's a better reminder of the sheer gift of living than feeling the sand in your toes and the spray of the ocean on your skin?
In Jordan, ancient Roman ruins, thousands of years old, are casually dispersed throughout the city where I wander. Mountains beholding Arab stories of God fulfilling promises to men, giving me glimpses of history which have forever changed the world- whose events are still shaping us. The call to prayer blankets the city in song as I sip my Arabic coffee and savor my baklava. What can I learn from my Muslim brothers and sisters? In a world where five times a day they are enveloped in prayer, I struggle to drag myself out of bed once a week for an hour.
It felt so refreshing to hear people say "I'm from Iraq", for through their friendship I saw people full of dedication, respect, and commitment. I loved putting faces with people who are from countries like Syria, Jordan and Egypt, for through their friendship I met the most joyful people who made me laugh til' I cry. Covered in their burqas, seeing the eyes of Syrian women felt like a gift from heaven, for which my heart had long been waiting. But in their presence is also heaviness, for I cannot ignore the world they have left. I cannot ignore the role my country plays in their asylum. I can only admire their strength for how far they've come.
Is it possible for me to see beauty in it all?
I don't believe in glossing over what's hard and hurtful in our world with big broad brush strokes for my own comfort and ego. I don't want to nullify the complexities of war and poverty for the sake of my optimism. But even in the dark and hard places, am I able to see beauty and love in someone? Can I look at the brokenness of my own culture and country, the devastation we have caused and the hurt we've bestowed in the name of security, with a critical eye and yet still acknowledge we are capable of good?
On mountain lakes and quaint quiet streets where I'm free to roam as I please, love is easy to give and receive. But when love is hard- when it comes at a cost- am I still able to look in someone's eyes and say, "You are worthy of love and belonging." What if that person is supposed to be my enemy? What if I'm theirs? In so many places where my nationality and skin tone are representatives of war and oppression, can someone still look me in the eyes and say, "You are worthy of love and belonging."? I hope so. For in our darkness, there is always hope for light. In our hate, there is always hope for love. In our fear, their is always hope for peace.
And unless I can look in the darkest of places and still see beauty in someone, I will never fully know the depth of Love.