As the light of dusk fades on the January horizon, we inch down a treacherous hillside trail in Turkey, hefting bags of food to deliver to a family of Syrian refugees who lives nearby.
Little children scurry to meet us at the end of the trail. Their small feet are stained dark from the dirt they play in. Their faces, though dusty from the smoke and filth of the city, beam with smiles.
We follow the children down a narrow path, skirting condemned buildings, ramshackle homes, a mosque, and piles of trash. Finally, they lead us to the building we are looking for. It, too, looks condemned. Dark. No light shines from inside.
Two women stand in the narrow stone doorway. They graciously accept our gifts of food.
“Come in,” one of the women says. “Have some chai with us.”
My five friends and I are led into the dark home. Once my eyes adjust, I can see the room is quite small, maybe 15’x20.’ A single light bulb hangs from the bare ceiling, flickering through the clouds of cigarette and coal smoke. Tea and tobacco are the only material possessions I can see. And I also notice we’re not alone. A couple dozen eyes stare back at us as we sit and wait for tea to be served.
The tea arrives steaming and fragrant. It perfumes the air with cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. It is the best tea I’ve had since arriving in Turkey–warming me to my very core.
While we sip the chai, we soon learn that four Syrian families, not just one, call this tiny room their home. Each family, being traditional Sunni Muslim, has at least four kids. Some of the men even have multiple wives. As I do the math, my jaw drops in surprise at their crowded living conditions. I imagine how I would feel living here. Would I have as big of a smile on my face as our gracious hosts?
Laughter rings through the room, even as the mothers try to hush their children. As the music of happiness surrounds me, a realization begins to form. These people own nothing. What country can they even call home now? But despite their lack of material possessions, they are still happy to host us. They’re generous and hospitable. In an instant, I feel humbled because I know my life is one of luxury and excess.
Even after we say our goodbyes and walk home, I keep thinking about these families and the joy they shared with us. And I am so glad we were able to bless them tonight, too.