This evening, I found myself sitting around a small coffee table in a one room AirBNB with three other men. Eight months ago, they all lived in the Leros Hotspot, a refugee camp on an island near Turkey. I volunteered there, working with them for nearly 3 months. Now, they have all been granted different versions of legally being allowed to live in Athens.
The one of the three that I know the least took an opportunity to ask me a simple questions while the other two had stepped out for a few moments. He asked me in his Kurdish accent, relatively good at piecing English sentences together, why some young people liked to volunteer. He said he understood why someone would want to give a week or two of their time to volunteering, but he couldn’t comprehend why someone would give two years.
After a little more fishing, it turns out that he was referencing some mormons that he had met in the city who had preyed on him a little bit. He pulled out a small, black-covered copy of The Book of Mormon that had been given to him and as he put it in my hands I was able to make sense of what he had been asking.
The startling thing about all of this though, was that I had no clear answer for him. The confusion in my head translated perfectly out into the open air of the apartment as I literally stuttered and cut myself off three or four times in a row, unable to figure out how to present a cohesive answer. Yes, I was trying to select my words carefully for the man who understands Farsi first and English second, but honestly, I wasn’t sure of how to answer the question myself, even if someone else had been asking it.
This all felt familiar to me; however, so I dug around in my draft folder for this blog and found an entry I had written months ago, but never polished, so I never got around to publishing it, and I think it makes sense to post now, along with this post. It’s a blog entry I had begun to write after I was finished hiking in New Zealand with a friend. This idea of helping people had crossed my mind then too. Why do I like to volunteer? Why is helping humanity “a thing” for me?