Upon arriving in Berlin for the first time, it only took a matter of hours before I fell in love. The people, the culture, the history, the vibes - it all felt so electric, attractive and inviting to me, as if the city itself wanted me to experience everything it had to offer. I distinctly remember a barista in her mid 20's casually referring to her city as "poor, but sexy". At the time I thought it an interesting choice of words, but soon discovered what she meant.
My favorite thing to do during my time off was to walk around and explore. Around almost every corner I'd find a new shop, restaurant or coffee shop worthy of a photo or new Instagram post (see below for my fav local spots).
I loved meeting the people inside each of these places, too. And no matter who they were, where they were from or how old they were, the city appealed to them all.
The city wasn't poor in the way I imagined. Sure, there are parts of the city that are run down or less glamorous than others, but what I witnessed was a culture deeply impoverished by a lack of relationship.
During a conversation with one of our connections there, I was grieved hearing her talk about the way her German friends viewed relationships. As a whole, Germans live very private lives and consider the title "friend" something to be earned, proved or fought for over a length of time.
Contrary to Greek culture, there is little emphasis on sharing in German culture, whether that be traditions, customs or social norms. According to a survey by Pew Research Center, less than 30% of Germans believe it's important to share customs and traditions, while over 2/3 of Greeks believe sharing culture is vital to their national identity.
After being in Greece for a few months, I was always a little disheartened to hear refugees refer to Germany as the "Promised Land", saying things like "If I could only get to Germany then our family will be ok" or "I just need to get to Germany and then my life can begin."
I wanted to look at them in the eye and explain that they had more than they thought they had. But how do you say that to a mother of four who barely has enough food to feed her babies and only one pair of clothes on her back?
But you can choose to be WITH.
The best I could do was to celebrate the relationship in their lives - celebrate the fact that some of their family was still together, their neighbors in the tent next door were reliable and trustworthy or, for some, the beginning of a relationship with the God who extended friendship toward them without expecting anything in return.
For refugees fleeing their war torn homes in the Middle East, there is no true Promised Land. There is only the relationships they fled with and the relationship they can choose to accept and then begin.
Those entering Germany in search of a new life and new hope may actually do more for Germany than they expect to receive from it. If that perspective shift occurs and the recipients are open, these precious people could add so much value and beauty to a culture starved for true friendship.
I'm willing to bet we are all richer than we think we are. And maybe the best we can do is to be with, and then celebrate, too.