I was planning to write about another topic altogether this week and then I happened upon a Facebook video that filled my heart and left me near tears. If you are a traveller who’s been to Greece, and has experienced this culture that values kindness above almost all other virtues, watch this video about Athenians’s response to the deluge of refugees reaching their shores and I’m betting you’ll feel much as I did. And if you’re someone who hasn’t gone to Greece yet, watch it too and you’ll have a sense why I insist so loudly that sometime you must.
The country, of course, has been much in the news over this crisis and for its ongoing financial woes, the second topic one that people who know of my frequent travels there often want to talk about. You’ll notice that I said talk. I won’t repeat what many of them say. You’ve surely heard it all, too. I will but make some observations. The more certain they are about who and what is to blame, and the wilder the tales they tell as fact about the country’s political and economic system, the more certain they are that it’s all so simple, the less likely it is that they’ve ever set foot anywhere near the Aegean.
“Well,” I always sigh in response, “I don’t begin to understand the whole situation, but I do know that it’s more complicated than it might at first seem,” and I try to explain what I know of some of the roots of this problem that lie far outside the country’s borders. I remind those who let me continue that this culture has thrived for thousands of years despite a myriad of obstacles thrown in the way.
Philanthropy, Philotimo and Philoxenia, the video is called. Philanthropy, a word that the Greeks gave us, means the love of humankind and implies the sharing of the necessities of life. Philotimo means, loosely, honour and pride in self, in family, in community and in doing the right thing. Philoxenia is the age-old requirement in the Greek culture to offer hospitality to strangers.
I will repeat myself. If you haven’t been to Greece yet, you must. You won’t have to visit there long to begin to feel how deeply ingrained in the Greek psychethese concepts are. And if you don’t go, at the very least you must watch this video. When you see how its people are meeting the latest wave to hit their shores, you’ll learn the most important thing there is to know about Greeks. And you’ll begin to understand why they draw back to their country again and again.