Laura Dobrowloski visited the Mavrovouni Camp on Lesvos, Greece late November, 2023.
The weather was starting to turn from soft warm breezes to sharp, crisp winter air. The added rains brought with it a cold dampness that settled in your bones. Looking out over the sea, the rough waves and windswept whitecaps were uninviting. And yet, many had managed this perilous crossing clinging to one another for safety in dinghies of questionable seaworthiness. They had just arrived at the camp this morning.
I was working in the new arrivals area, where families and individuals who have just made it into the camp are given a few items of donated clothing - for children the kit was a sweater, pants, socks, underwear, shoes and coat. Since the journey is wet and cramped, these few items of dry clothing are a very welcome balm to the weary, damp arrivals. Relying on donated boxes of clothing, however, meant not all sizes or appropriate gear was available.
I whispered a prayer each time a child came to the distribution hub, hoping to find just the right article to help keep them warm and dry. On this morning, a young girl around 11 or 12 years old was standing in front of me, her buttery brown eyes looking up in hopeful anticipation. Shoes would for sure be a challenge for this one, I knew, because most of the shoes on hand were either toddler or small children’s sizes.
But right behind me, sticking out as a complete oddity in the basket, was a pair of pink winter boots. When I presented these as a possibility, her eyes lit up and she eagerly put them on, a huge smile spreading across her face.
I pulled out a package of clothing for her corresponding age and whispered my prayer. As mom and daughter opened it up, everything seemed good for sizing, except the winter coat, which was thin, dark and too small.
Reaching into the bag of extra coats, I pulled out the first one, a puffy winter coat covered in butterflies. Again, the wide smile and bright eyes greeted me. She pulled this jacket to herself and hugged it close to prevent the possibility of any alternate decision by mom. Mom and daughter gave a smile of thanks and then they were off to attend to other matters for new arrivals in the camp.
About an hour later, this same girl showed up and lingered just outside the distribution hub, clad in her pink boots and her butterfly coat. At turns she inspected her boots with care and admiration, and then the butterflies on her coat. Then she would smile at me and pose in such a way that I could appreciate the absolute perfection of the outfit.
Amid the cold, the wet, the wind, the uncertainty and the hardness of things, this moment of joy was a welcome demonstration of thoughtfulness by the God who sees, knows and cares.
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