The picture I have included today is from Thessalonica in Greece. My husband and I spent several weeks living in an apartment right around the corner from this pedestrian walkway two summers ago when we were on Sabbatical. The pedestrian walkway was a magical place where community happened all day long. It was a broad paved walkway between shops, restaurants, and coffee houses where friends and neighbors gathered and enjoyed each other’s company. Often the men gathered in one place, as we see in this picture while the women gathered in another location, but not always.
I want to tell you about a particular day I remember from that summer. My husband and I had stopped at a gyros shop for some lunch. We were sitting in the open air seating near the walkway so we could watch the action on the street. I noticed a young man seated on a bench outside the restaurant playing his guitar. He was just playing for the enjoyment of making music for his neighbors. That’s when a grandmother came up to him. She stopped right in front of him and began to dance. She snapped her fingers above her head in time to the music and twirled in circles, first one way and then another. Enjoying her dancing, the guitarist played faster and louder and she continued to dance and twirl. Before they were done, they were both laughing with joy.
As I reflected on it later, it occurred to me that Greece at the time was experiencing about unemployment of about 20% and closer to 35% for young people like the young guitarist. The austerity measures included taxes of about 75% of income when inclusive of medical and social security. People were suffering terribly. Greece was surviving large because the extended family system of care was so strong. Families simply squeezed together to make room for those who had lost homes or jobs. Yet in spite of the hardship, these people consistently met each day with a smile and a kind word. They played music for their neighbors and danced in the streets just for the joy of being alive.
I want to live like that. Don’t you?
Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” Neh 8:10
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