Collectively, no group of people or individual person deserves our praise and recognition in 2015 more than the People of Greece. With very few exceptions who were the minority and not the norm, the people of Greece responded with dignity and grace to a massive humanitarian crisis, at a time when their own fortunes were the lowest in modern history.
Ordinary people doing extraordinary things was the norm this year in this tiny country in 2015.
The people of Greece taught us philanthropy— the love of humankind and the sharing of food or water, lending a hand to someone who’s fallen— or needs help off a sinking raft. Giving someone your food before you, yourself, have had any— simply because their journey has been long and they need it more.
The people of Greece taught us philotimo— a love of honor so profound and so uniquely Greek that the ideal doesn’t have a linguistic translation in any other language. It’s offering a young baby some milk, or the dead a dignified final resting place in the ground.
The people of Greece showed the world their dignity— repeatedly. While so many other “Christian” European leaders and nations were building barbed wire fences and using military force to keep refugees out, the people of Greece were cooking food, delivering pallets of bottled water and opening their homes, hotels and houses of worship to welcome these poor, desperate people fleeing a war they didn’t start.
Where Europe failed both as an institution as well as an ideal, the people of Greece reminded the world that the real ideals on which the European Union were founded— “United in Diversity” — were unfolding on a daily basis on Greek islands like Lesvos, Tilos, Chios, Leros, Samos, Kalymnos; and, border towns like Idomeni.
No, “United in Diversity” wasn’t happening in the halls of power of Brussels— it was happening on beaches and in town squares, and the people of Greece were responsible for carrying Europe out of its darkness more than any other people.
To the baker of Kos who shared his bread with those less fortunate, and the grandmothers of Lesvos who gave milk to a stranger’s baby… To the few hundred residents of tiny Tilos who fed and cared for thousands and the those spreading kindness on Kos. To the knitters of Athens and Thessaloniki, whose scarves and hats are keeping thousands of babies warm this winter to the late priest on Lesvos who reminded the world of Jesus Christ’s own words about loving and caring for the stranger. To the start-ups who used their technology to inspire and provoke action, to the Coast Guard and fisherman who saved thousands from drowning…
To all of you who lent a hand, and so many more too numerous to mention— we thank you for your efforts and for being a beacon of hope, of love, of philanthropy and philotimo— and most importantly, we thank you for reminding us what HUMANITY means.