Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Lessons Learned Abroad

Having grown up here in Florida, I thought that I was familiar with the homeless situation. I mean, there have been economic times here where every trip to the grocery store meant another handout in the parking lot. Although that seems to have decreased this year.  But, now I have traveled to Europe.

We spent several days in Athens, Greece to start off our trip. As we exited the metro station near our hotel, there was a crippled man stretched full out on the sidewalk begging for his daily bread.  Someone carried him in and out everyday to do this.  At every tourist stop, especially every church, there was at least one, sometimes several beggars.  Some stood and gave a story about how they needed money and could we help?  Others sat at the gate or doorway, silent, but eyes eloquent of need.  Some were fathers, some mothers, some grandmothers, some children.  Some were trying to play music for you to "earn" your charity, others just sat.  One young mother cradled her toddler on her lap and wept.  They all had hats or cups or hands ready to accept a penny or a euro or a bill.

I learned to carry coins in my pocket -- something I don't do at home because they weigh you down -- because a coin brought even the smallest amount of relief to those haunting eyes.  You knew that for one euro they could get some bread or water.

We gave a little here, a little there.  Not too much, we didn't have too much to spend.  But, we had so much more than they did waiting for us here at home.

I am thankful to live in America where opportunity is great.  Where we have been blessed.  Where we have more than enough. On Thanksgiving, my family will set down to a feast of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, several breads, several desserts, and more.  We will have more than plenty.  We will leave the table stuffed and wish we hadn't eaten so much.

I don't mean to sound guilty about it. I mean only to sound grateful.

The contrast is so great.  Because even on a regular day -- a day where I might, without thinking, complain that "there is nothing in the house to eat" -- I have more than those street beggars.  I have more than I need. And I am thankful.