The wave of refugees is once again rolling through Europe. A lot of people stay there, others are going on somewhere overseas. A lot of volunteers are needed to take care of them. But being able to help is not a one-way street. It makes us happy and is important for our own satisfaction.
Helping other people is actually in our blood. Who could walk past a small child who has fallen on the gravel road and is now bawling his eyes out? It sees red, its own blood. That makes the tears flow even more. We set it up, clean it, blow the pain away, comfort and rock it.
An old lady stands wringing her hands at the ticket machine. She doesn’t have a clue how it works. She has to get a ticket. No one is around to explain this machine to her. You pass by and can’t do otherwise than to help her.
In the last few months, tens of thousands of people have got together, organized and joined aid organizations. They have set up platforms to teach the refugees the local language, to organize living quarters for them, to offer them leisure activities and to provide them with the necessities of life. People lend a hand where it is necessary. They do this in their free time. Some even travel abroad, to places where people are fleeing, where the need and desperation are greatest. Doctors take care of the sick. Others cook many meals every day and carry them to the train stations. Aid teams set up tents to protect people and relief supplies from the rain. Many are willing to work to the point of exhaustion. They drive their private cars to transport relief supplies to where they are needed.
Anyone who helps realizes it’s a win. Satisfaction and joy that you were able to help, come to yourself. You feel a sense of belonging and discover a sense of community. If you look more closely at people, the images of fear in our heads disappear. You no longer believe that you could be exploited or even robbed. Embarking on the adventure of helping allows one to participate in the other culture. Most refugees are proud when given the opportunity to cook one of their national dishes. And we can even broaden our horizons by being interested in their lives, their needs and fears.
In Spite of Ourselves
It makes us happy when we can live out our Christian values. Many are guided by the text: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them.” (Matthew 7:12) Some have fears about helping, but they cannot bear to do nothing and are happy afterwards that they did it in spite of themselves. Still others see it as a privilege to live in a safe country and want to give back out of gratitude.
It’s the Need
It’s true, of course: Where many thousands have passed, rubbish and dirt are left behind and not a green blade of grass grows anymore. But can you blame them? For what reason are they fleeing? Did the fear of a new bombing bring them? Or the terrifying fear of witnessing once again how a friend who was walking next to you is torn apart by a shell splinter? Or the fear of being tortured or raped by Russian soldiers? The reasons for fleeing are manifold. Nobody leaves their homeland voluntarily.
A mother of two is driving her car, bringing raincoats and rubber boots to the Austrian border where the refugees are waiting in the cold rain for the buses to take them on. Our helper hands out the raincoats to a father of three who is waiting for the buses with his wife and an uncle. All family members are cold and discouraged. They have an invitation in their pocket to visit one of their father’s brothers in Sweden. But how to get there? And now night is falling again. Our helper has distributed everything and is on her way home. But she has no rest, she always has to think of the waiting, freezing family. She turns around and finds the family in the crowd. She calls her husband and asks him to come to the border with a second car and three child seats. Without further ado, they take the foreign family home with them.
Everyone gets a towel and a warm bath. The own children and the strangers soon play contentedly with each other despite the language barrier. After a satisfying dinner, everyone sits together, chatting heart and soul, laughing a lot and making plans for further help. After two days the time has come. A happy family is put on the train – with Sweden as their destination. The brother there knows that his relatives have been helped and that they will come soon. Another happy family stays behind in Austria. They are satisfied that they were able to help at least a few people. This spurs on and encourages us to continue helping. A drop in the bucket? True, but many drops form a rain that fills the bucket. Anyone can become a drop and get involved. There are no limits to the imagination. And the joy will come back and make you happy!
If you cannot go personally to help, you still have an opportunity to get involved. I think it is time to show our help to those in need, and I am donating to OCI, an institution that has several member projects in the Ukraine and neighboring countries, who know the needs first hand are doing their best to help out in alleviating the pain of those who have the greatest need right now. Find out more what they do and make your donation to make a difference right now:
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Esther Neumann studied Nutrition at the University of Vienna. Since then she served as an author for the health magazine “Leben und Gesundheit” and conducted health lectures in various locations of Austria.