The soft rain slowly fell just beyond the edge of the balcony. Because of its larger size, this blessed appendage – which hangs out over the street, four stories below – is referred to by the Greeks as a veranda.
For these (immigrants and poor people in Greece), even a tiny bit of rain brings inconvenience at least and moves their precarious existence a step closer to personal and familial desperation, Newell writes. (PhotoBucket)
How cool was my elevated seat at noon on this October day in Athens. How sweet the smell of gentle rain. How privileged was I to sit at leisure, eating hot ham sandwiches and chips and drinking from a tall glass of chilly milk, enhanced by a not stingy but just correct number of ice cubes. Life is good.
My purposeful preoccupation with a computer keyboard and small screen was blessedly interrupted by this further evidence of what the French refer to as la vie, the life, which is my privilege these days.
And then, my relaxed concentration turned to those far less fortunate than I. And then, it occurred to me that the rain so welcomed by me on my veranda was not at all hailed by those in Athens who no longer have a proper home and sufficient shelter.
Immigrants (historically the poor in Greece) and now an increasing number of Greeks are facing hunger and homelessness in ever-growing numbers.
Those whom the current economic crisis has pushed closer to and beyond the edges of the normal human comfort zone must surely not be enjoying this petite shower as much as I am.
Raindrops falling on their heads are neither refreshing nor are they the stuff of carefree song lyrics.
For these, even a tiny bit of rain brings inconvenience at least and moves their precarious existence a step closer to personal and familial desperation.
That wonderfully hot ham sandwich repast, the aroma of which filled our apartment and spilled over on our veranda, would certainly seem a fantasy to those for whom any type of warm meal is now a distant and fading memory.
When I poured that tall glass of milk from the container, I worried not that the carton was emptied because my Alpha Beta (Άλφα-Βήτα) supermarket was just a few blocks away.
On Friday, our weekly shopping day, I will surely purchase more milk. But many of my fellow comrades on planet Earth for whom the crisis has drained their savings will have no such opportunity to obtain this life-sustaining liquid.
What must a man of privilege do in the face of such crying need and economic disparity? Must I curse the conscience that brings the poor to my mind when I am enjoying life?
Am I to ignore the plight of those who, often through no fault of their own, are in distress? Shall I shut my ears to the pleas of poor children who long for bread to eat and milk to drink?
Or, shall I repent of my wealth, sell all that I have, depart from my vaunted veranda and go to live among the homeless on the streets of Athens? I am, after all, in this city because I care for the less fortunate.
To conclude my meal, I pray and solemnly will to redouble my efforts to be the presence of Christ among the needy.
I promise to take the energy and nourishment provided by ham sandwiches and milk and head out to help to feed Athens' growing hungry, regardless of race, religion or background.
I commit never to take for granted a day's meal and always to offer as much of me as possible to help the helpless.
I choose to eat less so that others may eat more and to give more of my resources so that those who have less may have actually more.
Oh God, may I never lose the dry, nourishing veranda view. For the sake of those who are wet and undernourished, I pray.
Bob Newell is ministry coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Athens, Greece. A version of this column first appeared on his blog, ItsGreek2U, and is used with permission.