The Human Dimension. Helping Refugees: Part 4

The Germans have a wry saying. “We sent for guest workers, but Menschen came instead.” Meaning that after WWII, the work force of foreigners who came to Germany turned out to be fellow human beings.

I find myself thinking about that saying. The flow of refugees heading this way is huge and overwhelming, and in some ways I am afraid. I love the security and safety of life here, how clean it is. I’m proud to live in a land with universal health care and great mass transit, wonderful street cafés, and (most important of all) the guarantee of personal freedoms and a firm commitment to human rights.

What does this have to do with the hordes of refugees flooding the country? I’m not sure. Maybe nothing at all. But I hear from some of my friends, “What if Europe becomes Muslim? What if the streets are filled next with women in full burkas? What if we lose our freedoms as Germans bend over backwards to accommodate the newcomers?

They’re nameless, faceless. They’re the others, the ones who constitute a vague but ever-growing threat.

One of my great bonds with the man I married is our desire to explore the world together. We’ve taken vacations in moderate Muslim lands. Every trip was wonderful, filled with people with dreams and hopes like yours and mine. I have a serious disconnect when I try to reconcile the horror of ISIS with the kindness of the friendly people we met in Egypt… Indonesia… Tunisia… Malaysia… Turkey… Singapore. The answer, of course, is they can’t be reconciled. The two have nothing to do with each other.

I’m terrified of the fanaticism that just killed more than 100 people in  Paris. The refugees are terrified, too. The people fleeing to Europe want the same things we do: a civilized place to work, live, and raise their children. A stream of humanity is arriving. People with dreams and hopes, like yours and mine.

Each time I go to massage the refugee M. [1], I’m confronted with my own fear of the unknown foreign.

We have no languages in common. I’m not only working without any knowledge of her history; we can’t even talk.  One of her children remains in the room the entire time to translate into German for her.

These are the hardest sessions I’ve ever attempted.

As a therapist my hands know their work; I’m capable to treat her PTSD symptoms. But the person-to-person connection…. I have to do this solely through touch. The afternoons of therapy have changed my understanding of the human dimension. It’s become more complicated, and much simpler. It’s changed me as well.

NOTES: [1] To respect the privacy of the persons involved I have changed the names and use initials only.

11 thoughts on “The Human Dimension. Helping Refugees: Part 4”

  1. Hello Jadi! I have just discovered your blog when you left a comment on Alan’s The Art of Hookie blog. You write beautifully and I look forward to reading more of your stories.

    As you I love to travel. Most of the writing I do is when my husband and co-skipper, Bill, and I are sailing. We have currently sailed 3/4 of the way around the world having visited some of the most remote islands and lands in the world. If you would like to see some of our life on the open ocean you could visit I have also encouraged Bill to post blog entries and I love how his voice is coming through in his writing. I believe his strongest writing was the entry after we were almost hit by a ship in the night off the South African coast a days sail from Cape Town.

    I look forward to reading more of your entries. Nice to meet you 🙂


  2. Jadi, you’ve beautifully expressed the fears of millions ~ both long-established citizens and refugees. I try to put myself in the shoes of a refugee and what that must be like. How blessed I’ve been.

    1. Wishing you all the same… My German husband brought me home a French turkey (5 pounds – the smallest holiday turkey I’ve ever prepared!). Thanksgiving really is a day to feast with loved ones near and far.

  3. As long as there are people like you and your husband Jadi the world is in safe hands. These refugees are people just like us with the same needs and the same fears. Nothing but the horrors they’ve faced every day could make someone leave their homeland like that so what a relief to run into someone who welcomes you to their community and recognises you’re not a member of ISIS and you don’t share their goals.
    Thanks for a great post.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    1. This series of posts have been pretty somber. This is where I remember the scope I want for my blog. Comments from regular readers like you assure me that the range is a good one.

      I wish the world were in safe hands. Like you say, it’s vital to remember that the refugees fled because of the horrors they faced every day. I’ve been pushed outside my comfort zone; they lost literally everything. Thanks again for taking the time to comment. Take care, David!

    1. Thanks Lise. I wish I could describe what this all looks like and how it’s changing our lives here. I don’t know if I can; I stumble my way towards a definition as most of this is beyond words.

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