A warm world is where I want to be, where smiles animate the stiffest of faces, where hugs disarm the most guarded of people, where trust draws out trust, and where no one will find themselves with no one to turn to on a chilly day.
We build giant cathedrals to prove our faith to the world, but isn’t religion best demonstrated with a small act of kindness?
It is always in the simplest of people that kindness finds a home…
When the streets of the city are your home, when you are solely responsible for your own safety while other children are tucked safely at home, when your survival is depending entirely on the kindness of others…
These piercing eyes belong to one of the 300, 000 children that call the streets of the cities in Congo their home. “les enfants de la rue” ~ the children of the street, wild eyed, witty, emotionally fragile, hard shelled, untrusting… the sad product of a humanity gone wrong. But still the strength in them and the hope in their eyes could not be missed.
I met these children in a center in Kinshasa that offers them lessons, food, daytime shelter and guidance where needed. They sang to me, drew messages on the blackboard for me to photograph and sang me their national anthem in a most rhythmic excellence which I filmed and will share in a future post.
A long time ago, before the camera and I were companions, I went back to Lebanon with a very good friend who loved to follow the unknown. We were near the top of one of Lebanon’s two mountain ranges when we spotted a phenomenon. On a bright and sunny day, a lone cloud on top of the mountain was dancing in circles as the wind spun it round and round and round again. My friend suggested we follow that cloud and so we did. After hiking to the top of that mountain where if you stretched your arm up high you can pass it through the spinning cloud, we met an old shepherd named “Abou Akram”. In his aging eyes we met the essence of kindess and her sister wisdom. He lived in a stone hut alone for 9 months of the year and tended to his goats and sheep comforted by the occasional visits from his wife who lived with the rest of his big family down in the valley. Abou Akram invited us to a cup of tea that he cooked on a small fire and he spoke to us of his life. He said he had read all that needed to be read, heard all the stories that needed to be told and ate all the delicacies that needed to be eaten. Now, he can only find his peace here on top of the mountain. He said people seek him out to ask him questions about their future, because you see, his mind became so clear that he could now see. “I am a seer” he said. When I looked around me and all I could see were hills, clouds, sky, grass and rocks, I asked the seer how he could bear being alone. He then looked at me with eyes overcome by tenderness and filled with tears and he said: “alone? I am never alone? Don’t you see him? Can’t you see God? He is in ground, in the air, in the sky, in the rocks, in the very air I breathe! Love is flooding my heart and I all I can be is thankful. With this kind of love you are simply never alone…”
It can safely be said that hospitality is an essence that lives and resonates strongly in Lebanese people and in their society. It is a place that a visitor is often invited to a meal several times a day by total strangers, and it is not a matter of speech, they really do mean it and they do receive great pleasure from feeding you. It is an open door policy, especially in villages and a warmth and generosity that is very difficult to say no to. In fact you must choose between getting fat during the holidays or upsetting quite a few people who cannot handle your rejection. In a world where anonymity is becoming the rule of day, returning to such openness and close contact with people is so heartwarming and refreshing.