The art of being present

We live so busy rushing towards the next step. We run for the next bus when there is another one coming in just one minute. At the same time, we tend to get stuck in the past wishing we had done something another way.

Meeting families of refugees in Jordan really made me think: why do we always focus in the future? Why do we keep asking what’s next? Even worse, why do we get stuck in the past? The refugees in Jordan taught me to focus on the “Here and Now” and enjoy my every day. They have been through so much, have so little, and still are so resilient. They have to live day by day to ensure that their families are still together.

We visited a home in Za’atari refugee camp located 10km from the Syrian border. It hosts more than 78,417 people and about 461,701 refugees have passed through the camp. I was surprised by the bits of colour in the middle of the desert (see photo below) and how Za’atari camp was becoming a village rather than just a camp.

Za’atari camp, view from the top.

Fatima’s home was beautiful. She had decorated the walls with colourful posters, there were bright red cushions laying down on the floor for us to sit on, and in the middle of the grey desert she had a touch of colour, thanks to her plants. I was nervous. I did not know what to say but once we’d had an ice-breaker, where each of us told about ourselves and our hobbies, I suddenly felt at ease.

We asked the kids what they like to do in their free time. All of them, no matter their age, just replied “play”. So simple, right? Just play. There was no room to complain about their situation or think about the past or their future. Play was all they had, just running around to try and bring some fun to camp life. It was so eye-opening to see the importance of play for all children and how close to reality is our Let’s Play for Change campaign.

Fatima’s home in Za’atari camp. We felt welcomed and cosy from the moment we walked in.

A few days later, we visited another home in Zarqa. This was a house in the city and not in the camp. The family had been once at a camp when they arrived in Jordan in 2011, but now, they have their own home. My mind wandered into the future again and I asked myself whether the family we met at Za’atari will have a home few years from now?

We asked another simple question. Does your husband like working in the bakery or what would he like to have as a career instead of the bakery? Such a simple answer: “He just wants the kids to be OK.” Once again, I thought, these families have gone through a roller-coaster of emotions and they are so resilient and strong, they just appreciate what they have “Now”—their families and their lives. None of the families we met complained a single time. Nobody was angry at what life had brought to them. They all just wished to be a happy and healthy family. The husband would appreciate whatever job he has so he can take care of his family. It really shows the strength and determination they must have to make their life in Jordan work.

I left Jordan still thinking about the future. Not mine, but theirs. Will the families in the camp still be there a year from now? Will they go back to Syria? What are their dreams for the future? What I want you to take from what I experienced in Jordan is that life can change in a blink of an eye. For those that catch themselves complaining too often, and if you worry by the little things, cherish your “Now” because what we experienced in Jordan can happen to you and can happen to me.

That’s me at Amman’s community-based organisation (CBO), planting a rosemary pot with kids