The Refugee Sharing Kindness

Reflecting on Reflection

I met Barbarou last year, on the street leading to the Swedish Church, in Stockholm. I was travelling through Europe, documenting life lessons of refugees who were displaced primarily by the conflict in Syria, and the various stakeholders involved in their integration in Europe.

Almost instinctively, as soon as I saw Barbarou on the street, I leaned to my interviewee who was walking beside me and asked her if she knew the lady in the wheelchair. To my surprise, she did! And so, at a street corner in Sweden, began one of the most heartwarming conversations (and the quickest one too) that I have ever had with anyone.

“It might be impolite to ask but may I know how old you are?”, I asked hesitatingly.

“82. I have managed to see what 82 looks like. 82”, replied Barbarou in a thick, slow yet warm voice.

“And what has life taught you? What is the single most important thing that you’ve learnt in the last 82 years?” I asked.

“I had a wonderful marriage and a great career. I was working full time ’til I was 66 years old. And we both, my husband and I, made sure that we took time out every once in a while to reflect on the way life was going. If we were giving enough time to things that mattered. To evaluate if we were showing people we loved that we cared. It was like our ritual to sit down every so often and take notes from whatever had happened so far. That’s how you make life beautiful and create more peace in the world. It might sound time-consuming but it isn’t.”

We can all share a little kindness. Image by eberhard 🖐 grossgasteiger

She added:

And so my life lesson is: Take out time to reflect on what you can do to make the world a better place.

Such profound piece of wisdom, spoken with such ease and clarity; it astounded me.

Often, amidst my travels and lonesome Saturday nights, I think of what Barbarou and her husband have been practicing–simple ways to heal the world–almost as a way of life rather than a big boo-ha-ha, one-time charity event. There is no ‘Messiah attitude,’ just two humble human beings doing what every person can do.

Putting Kindness into Practice

In the glory of our overburdened world, it might never be possible for us to help everyone. But it is definitely within our means to reach out to someone. Anyone. When you avoid an act of kindness; you not only deprive yourself of an opportunity to serve humanity but also steal from another human being the feeling of gratitude, which not only will comfort him/her but also has the power to touch your spirit.

There is no upper limit to how many people you can be kind to or how many people you can love/help/serve. The numbers run in millions but don’t let that overwhelm you. There is no upper limit but there is a lower limit–one. If you are able to know in your entire lifetime the story of one other human being inside out, and contribute to their story in a way that is all and only goodness, you have done the best anyone could do for that human being.

It is definitely within our means to reach out to someone. Image by Jem Sahagun

Start small. Nothing fancy. Good intention and courage, the size of a mustard seed, is all you need.

As for me, I did take time out to reflect on how I could make the world a better place and guess what? I found it. The firsts have always had more meaning than the half-ways and the endings. And so, I’ve found that making it special for people when they are attempting something for the first time makes their world a better place, even if just for a moment. I’ve decided to be extra nice to people on day one of their job. When I see a sign ‘Opening Day’ of a food truck/cafe, I go in and buy something; doesn’t matter how expensive or cheap. I will mark my presence, hold the space for someone else, and add some comfort to their nervousness.

Celebrate the Good

Sometimes good vibes is all that people need to hold onto hope amidst all the fear. Good vibes are bravery medals; and I won’t forget to put one on people who have earned it by attempting something new, that might have held their heart captive for a long, long time.

Celebrate the liberation of dreams. And someday, someone will step in to celebrate your beginnings. Make room for it.



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2 years ago

Deeply touching article, thank you Deepak.

Lynn Hopkins
2 years ago

Gratitude, that is the secret to happiness. Every morning when I wake up, I thank the Universe for giving me such a lovely house to live in, such a wonderful partner to share it with, such wonderful children, such good health, such a beautiful country to live in. This brings me optimism and joy. Peace and contentment. Always look forward, never look back. Regret, blame and worry are wasted emotions as are all negative ones. Tomorrow will be another wonderful day. That is what I have learnt so far (72 yrs.) and I’m still learning.

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Take 5 Deep Breaths

1. Feel your body.

2. Relax your shoulders.

3. Choose a word that makes you feel peaceful, such as om, peace, or love.

4. Inhale slowly while mentally saying the word you chose. Pause before starting the exhalation.

5. Exhale slowly while mentally saying 1 with the first breath. Exhale saying 2 with the second breath, up to 5 or more.

Feel Your Body

Relax your body, and just be aware of how your body feels. Without changing anything, notice what you are feeling, and where you are feeling things in your body.  If your body wants to adjust a little, let it. Be curious how it feels as your body relaxes. (Resist any temptation to analyze or think.)

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