Rainy Friday. Back at Turtle Green, the cafe I dream to have within walking distance of our house in Takoma Park. All week I have been privileged to sit with, listen to, teach yoga and relaxation exercises to, laugh and dance with our students at CRP. I have spent a lot of time over the past decade talking to refugees at camps, in schools, in their homes, at community centers. I have carried their stories and experiences–some of them almost impossible to bear–with me. These stories, these experiences have shaped who I am in ways that I cannot put into words.
This time, though, something different is happening within me. I am still heartbroken when I listen to people talk about their loss and daily struggles as refugees in Jordan. But this trip I feel happy, not sunken into despair. Happy! I love our students. The men practicing yoga in their fancy trousers and leather belts, so serious and warm. And amused as can be by Jill and me. The teenagers, earnest and adorable. And the women. The beautiful ritual of closing the curtains, locking the door, and then observing them quite literally let down their hair. Hejabs off, outwear off, track suits on, ready to go. There is a sense of strong solidarity with the women. The solidarity of womanhood, of motherhood, of letting loose in a way that would not happen in the company of men. One comment from Jill on someone’s beautiful eye make-up and we got enrolled in a ladies’ make-up session for next week. If I come home with perfectly applied black kohl eyeliner, top and bottom, you’ll know why. The movements of flowing sun salutations inspired impromptu lessons in Raks Sharki (“Eastern Dance”). It takes my breath away to see the sorrow in someone’s eyes shift to a twinkle and a big smile, even for just a few moments. Yoga works, yes. Paying attention to breath works, for sure. Relaxation works, definitely. But maybe what works most of all is showing up with warmth, compassion love, and a readiness to meet people where they are asking to be met.