When we left the US for this journey through Europe, we had planned things in a different way than what has actually occurred. We had planned that this was a Great Gratitude Tour, a mission to work with refugees and those in need and record their stories. To work in camps where we could at the very least offer compassion, hope and comfort. To find gratitude, it’s meaning and live accordingly.
Not all of those have been accomplished in manner in which we set out. I was feeling really low about this, too, because I knew that a lot of people likely feel really disappointed in us for not being successful. Then I lined out all of those plans and examined them.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts” – Winston Churchill
There have been many roadblocks to our well laid plans. Many of the contacts that we had have left their positions or been unable to work with us as planned. There have been many occasions where we sought information on where we could be helped, but met with resistance or rejection because of our nationality (a post for “Being an American isn’t always a positive in other countries” may or may not manifest.), family size and even because of being a single female parent. These are not the reasons our plans were not successful.
That is not to say we haven’t been of service – we have. Just in different ways than we envisioned, or what might be commonly known as “service”. Sometimes our service has been in small, seemingly unimportant ways. Those have actually been the most rewarding of times. Helping people with their daily tasks because of age or infirmity, despite language barriers, is an amazing thing. Especially, when many people view Americans in a less than positive light because of the political climate in their country or the US.
When we left one place, an elderly man who sold popcorn missed us because we smiled and said “hello” to him in his own language every day. He had never had that happen and it changed his views about Americans and young people in general. That is just an everyday attitude, to smile and say hello to someone, but it can change lives little by little.
When we have the opportunity to have a “sketching party” at the riverside or a pretty little forest area and a crowd draws to see what the strange foreigners are doing, it gives an opportunity to interact with people and be friendly and prove that my little so-thought-of “underlings” are now known-to-be “wonderlings” because they have overcome their own challenges to engage with people in a real and intimate way. Something not thought likely in times past.
When we met a Syrian family of refugees who have lost so much and were able to talk, hear their story, offer encouragement and compassion and continue our relationship beyond the place we met, it was not how I envisioned it – it was more!
I had to rethink my ideas of successful. Were our plans successful? No. Those plans were not, for a variety of reasons. However, offering unconditional love and support, friendly gestures, helping people with their daily life to maintain their independence, those little things have made our journey a success, just not how we thought it would be. The success hasn’t come from the doing, it has come from the learning and growing. I am experiencing things that I never thought I could – the emotions, the motivations, the love for life, the new perspective.
“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” – Albert Schweizer
I have learned to be at peace no matter the chaos that storms my way. There have been some things that have arisen that I did not think I could deal with, much less live through, even a few months ago. I have found a strength, a will, a desire so powerful, to live a life so full of energy, faith, love and hope, that I could never believed that I am the same person I was a year ago! If anyone sets in this lifestyle as weak and dainty, they should know they won’t remain that way for long!
We haven’t abandoned our original plans, either. Those have evolved in to an even bigger, more defined state of being as the Bohemian Habitat, to become more than just the Great Gratitude Tour. The tour has been, and is, our education, our experience and our trial by fire. When this is done and we move forward with the Bohemian Habitat as our full time endeavor (yes, I will write about that and explain it later), we will have this Great Gratitude Tour as the success that propels is into a new kind of living and awareness, to make more successes possible.
Our time has not been wasted or a loss. I could not even imagine this experience a few years ago, or even a year ago, much less believed that our little clan could accomplish what we have! My children are learning and growing and becoming complete and balanced people. They are kind and thoughtful and creative. And brave, so very brave. For all of this, I am grateful. We are all grateful for the lessons learned, the people we have come to know and love, the places we have visited and fallen in love with, even the challenges we have faced and are facing. So today, I will call The Great Gratitude Tour a success.