Embracing Elpis, the Spirit of Hope in Lesvos

Elpis. In Greek mythology, the daimona, or spirit, of hope. When the infamous Pandora opened her box or jar, away flew the other daimona, leaving behind mankind in their suffering and toil on the Earth.

Except Elpis. She alone remained behind, a beacon of hope to every man,woman, and child who crys out in fear and despair.

And from such a mythos, on a Greek island embracing those sojourners of despair who take to the seas and face death in the face in the Hope of a safe haven, a place of respite called the Hope Centre, formerly the Elpis Hotel, has been born from the sweat and tears and HOPE of a hodgepodge crew of international and local volunteers.

Two days ago, we quickly put down our shovels, paint brushes, hammers, and humble instruments and opened our doors to a group of 120 refugees, mostly from Syria. A ferry strike had stretched the island of Lesvos to the breaking point, almost 7,000 refugees stuck on the island, all the overnight and temporary transit camps full, some men even sleeping outside in the winter chill.

We were not ready, not done with our renovation work, our tools scattered about, but news of the refugees coming our way galvanized us and we rushed to make ready. Our hearts, our souls beat in one dance.

It was a beautiful night, a beautiful morning that followed. Families gathered togther in rooms, a rare moment of private togetherness where they could let down their guard from constant vigilance. Steaming tea, a roaring fire, children playing with markers and paper, an inpromptu raising of voices to a ukelele. Harmony and peace. A rare gift in the uncertain path of a refugee. I have never seen so many genuine, radiant smiles as hope filled each and every person there.

It was the most poignant moment of my entire life.

Hope is powerful. Elpis stirs and takes flight from her jar, not to flee us, but to take root in each one of our hearts.

In the face of fear, indifference, hate, I choose Hope.

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About chronictraveler

Chronic Traveler starts as a dream, one that I thought I had lost, but that has slowly changed into a mission to realize and live that dream every day. In December 2007 I became seriously ill and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness. I had to stop teaching as my life tumbled into a never-ending nightmare of doctors, hospitals and tests. Finally, in May 2008 I was diagnosed with a chronic condition - fibromyalgia. I was only 26 years old at the time. I have had to give up teaching, and now work part-time at a performing arts center as I learn how to manage my condition and improve my quality of life. What helped me through the months of uncertainty and sickness, and continues to inspire me, was a new focus on what truly mattered to me: family, friends, gardening, the arts, and especially travel. I have always fed my soul by traveling, ever since I first stepped off the plane at age 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal to help with an orphanage's building project. Meeting new people and experiencing how they live and how they view the world infuses my life with a richness I was so afraid I would lose when the doctor first said, "You have fibromyalgia". This blog is my story, as I begin to forge a new path. I am embracing my life as it is, with the fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, and learning to do what I love regardless. It may mean I have to go slower and take more naps or breaks! But I am determined to learn how to travel and experience the world, and hopefully what I learn will help others like me who believe their medical condition stands in the way of their travel dreams.
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