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Sometimes You Are Someone Else's Good Karma - Benjamin Gow

Sometimes You Are Someone Else’s Good Karma

I have a story to tell you. A parable…

Everywhere we have travelled as a family the world has been on our side. That doesn’t mean that it’s been easy, it means that I have become really aware that you don’t know if something is “good luck” or “bad luck” until you see how it plays out.

The other day another volunteer couldn’t understand how to access the information she needed to make up the aid parcels we deliver to families. I tried to help her over the phone, and then in person, and then finally I handed her my phone with the list on it and let her take that.

Two hours later she found me and she said: “have you got your phone, Ben?” She told me she had put it down to find something, and it was gone when she came back. Of course, this was the last thing I wanted to hear, and yes, it had been stolen.

Understandably, everyone was concerned and upset, but we couldn’t change the fact that the phone had gone; and neither anger or frustration was going to help. I had all these choices of how to feel but, it was what it was, and it didn’t change the fact that we had to finish making the aid parcels to get them to families in need.

I set off to shop for the items we didn’t have on the list and secretly put out positive thoughts, and pushed through it keeping faith with people. I hoped the person who stole it needed it more than I did, and anyway what do I know about what’s “good luck” or “bad luck”, I thought?

When I got back, a woman came up to us and said; “we’re bringing back a phone, it’ll be here in an hour.”

In the end, it took much longer. A friend, and Arabic speaker, waited with me after we had finished for the day; and the two of us were there for about an hour more, when a man came back with my phone in his hand. He wanted us to understand that he was not the one who had stolen it, he was bringing it back. He had enough troubles of his own; “Why would I cause any more?”

I watched him talking. When you can’t understand someone’s language you pay more attention to their actions. He was uptight and on edge, but what struck me most was that he showed so much care, over something so little, for someone he’d never met. He stuck to principles that meant something to him; and because he did he made a huge difference to me.

It has a cracked screen and no sim card (which is why I have been out of communication, everything is rushed into about 40mins just before midnight, and I do have to talk to my mum and my Harry once in a while). But, I had my phone in my hand and what do I know about good luck or bad luck, I thought?

On Wednesday this week, I signed up as usual for the families I would visit; the teams we work with, and the families we are given to take care of, are “picked from a hat”. It is random.

The first house we went to the lady was home and we did what we came to do – found out who they were, what their needs were and how we can help – and moved to the second house, where no-one was home. No-one was home in the third house, and no-one was home in the fourth and last house.

As a team, we hung around about ten minutes waiting to see if someone came home, but they didn’t; we then decided we’d retrace our steps and try the other two again. There was still no-one home behind the first door we knocked on but, at the last chance we had to connect with a family this week somebody opened the door, somebody had come home in the time we were away.

We ducked into the cool, dimly-lit basement the family call home, and my eyes adjusted to the light as I took off my shoes. I sat down fumbling for my pencil and paper, distracted by trying to observe the etiquette, remembering the Arabic greetings I’m learning, when I realised the host was talking to the Arabic speaker excitedly, pointing at me and putting his finger and thumb up to his ear miming a phone.

I was a guest in the house of the man who had brought my phone back from the thief, I stood up, crossed the room and shook his hand.

I wasn’t able to say all the things I wanted to say to him in words, as once happened to me I only had a handshake to bridge that gap.

He is a father, he lives with his two children, and his sister, who is widowed, and her three children, aged three years old to 21; he has adopted his sister’s children and takes care of them all. They rent two rooms in a basement and sleep on the cold floor with no blankets. As the conversation unfolded we learnt that his son is very sick with a kidney infection and I know, if it isn’t treated, it could cause permanent kidney damage. He has been to the hospital but was turned away. This man, the father, wasn’t sure why.

As a matter of record, we ask for a phone number and the father handed over his Turkish ID card, with his phone number written on the back so I could write it down easier.

I attended a refugee rights training meeting the other night and, as a result, I noticed that his ID card was out of date; it started with a 98 instead of a 99. I was able to tell the father this, tell him how to get a new one, issued for free in less than an hour, how easy that would be and, that this is why he couldn’t get treatment for his young son at the hospital.

When he has a current ID card his son will be given the treatment he needs for his kidney infection, and will get better very soon.

If my phone had not been stolen, if he had not returned it, if his family had not been given to my team, if we had not turned back if he’d not returned home; if I had not attended the refugee rights meeting, if he had read out his phone number instead of giving me his ID card; if I had not looked at his number. Such a simple thing – a digit on the beginning of an identity number – to change everything.

It has been a privilege to get to know the father better because now I know how I can thank him. Where I don’t have the words in a shared language, I went out and bought him some blankets. For his family, for his six children. They won’t have to sleep on the cold floor without anymore.

Here they are in his home, and here I am saying what do I know about good luck and bad luck?

Sometimes it’s more than that, sometimes you are somebody else’s good karma.

One Response to “Sometimes You Are Someone Else’s Good Karma

  • nick theobald
    7 years ago

    Every action, every word . . . superb . . . amazing . . . inspirational.

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