The mask hid my crying face. Well mostly. The tears still tattle-tailed my feelings, but for once I was grateful for the mask to hide the rest of my face. Let me tell you the story behind those tears.
It was supposed to be an ordinary errand. I was looking for some specific needle work items for a refugee project idea. I had a friend (Lucia) who knew the Beirut downtown area better than I. So, she had agreed to accompany me to this sewing supply store tucked in-between tall mazes of buildings and hard to find parking spaces.
When I awoke the morning of our planned errand day, Lucia had sent me a text message. There she asked if a foreign housemaid could go with us and I could drop her off at her country’s consulate. I agreed with the stipulation that I had to be home by a certain time because I was expecting guests.
Picking up Lucia and her new housemaid friend, my heart was warmed to be introduced to Happiness (her real name). Happiness’s complicated story unraveled as we navigated our way to the consulate with the help of our GPS. Thousands of foreign workers are hired all throughout the Middle East. Once they arrive, they are not in the position of power, rather their bosses have full rights over them (according to the law). Most have their passports taken away. Many work, 7 days a week. They are fortunate if they get a day off or have a kind boss.
Happiness had two weeks left in her one-year position but was simply done. She had not had a single day off in 11.5 months and she was completely disillusioned. Happiness was found by my friend outside of her apartment building, with all her luggage, simply waiting for something to happen, or someone to help. The hope was that help would come at the consulate. However, there she was told that she was crazy and to go back to her boss.
On our way back from the consulate the gravity of Happiness’s situation and all the foreign workers weighed heavy on my heart. Lucia’s hands and mine were tied to help much, as if we took her in then we would become responsible. Without Happiness’s passport, we just did not have the power to be of much help. The van was silent as we wove closer to our separation. That is when my tears spilled out of my eyes and I was so grateful for the required mask.
Happiness’s story did not end there. Lucia, despite her own personal upcoming move to a different nation, ended up spending hours and hours mediating with the boss and Happiness. In the end, Happiness understood the benefit of finishing out her remaining two weeks of work and then being able to fly home to her country of origin. Those last few weeks Happiness was able to spend many hours with my friend, in-between her work and she was a completely different girl than the girl I met on that day I cried.
I was so touched by the power of kindness that my friend invested into Happiness. Despite her hands being tied, she still was able to move hearts by being present and willing. By not running from an opportunity despite the time and any inconvenience that was caused her at this time of closure in her time in Lebanon. Her lack of selfishness continues to speak volumes to me.
Lucia left the day before the devastating explosion in Beirut and Happiness left the day of the explosion and reported making it to her home country safely. Her life, will never be the same because of the kindness shared by a friend I was blessed to know for just a breath of time in Lebanon.
Two beautiful women, changed by each others love and vulnerability.
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