LaGeSo, undated, rainy day

The bad weather makes things worse for refugees at the Lageso. Last week, it was raining heavily and the children’s corner was already full, with kids and volunteers. A man asked me if I had a plastic bag so that he could cover his daughter’s head. I gave him one and felt ashamed that he would thank me so warmly for giving him a silly bit of plastic. I felt helpless and didn’t even feel like playing with the children anymore. Since our storage room – filled with donations – looked awful, I thought to tidy it up a little bit. I had forgotten my jacket that day so even crossing the courtyard was enough to get soaked. Luckily, I found a couple of rain ponchos for the children. When I went out to give them away, I felt awful for those who stretched out their hands and weren’t quick enough to grab it. I had six ponchos, and perhaps twelve people needing it just in that corner of the LaGeSo. How do you decide to hand one in to this person instead of that one? Who needs it the most? No one teaches you that. I went for the youngest children. And instantly felt bad for the others. They would all get sick and maybe sleep in the cold the following night.
I went back in the storage room, which was so quiet compared to the courtyard. You could only hear the rain and there was a smell of wet bricks and dust. This time I found a couple of bags with adult clothes and shoes lying there. I went next door to ask if they could be redistributed, and a young man offered to help me carry the bags to the dispensing point. We started to talk, he was a 25 year-old man from Damascus. He had traveled to Germany with a fake European passport. I remember he had a funny fake name, we joked about it and he said he had loved pretending to be someone else during his trip. His situation was being processed by the LaGeSo, and he said he’d rather be helping us out than staying idle while he was being sorted. As we rummaged through the bags, I told him I felt so ashamed by Europe after Germany had decided to reinstate border controls and about the way refugees were being treated at the borders. He smiled at me, saying “oh no, it’s actually good, that way now you’ll be able to take care of us!”. It felt like a slap on the face. I could see his point but I was shocked by the way he could distance himself so much from a situation he had been living only a month before, and show so little empathy. I thought I didn’t know what he had endured back in Syria, so I didn’t answer. He could see I was upset, so he hastily added “of course it’s sad for them!”, talking about the refugees stranded at the border. But it was too late, he had said it the way people who don’t really care about what’s happening right now would say “oh, keep up the good work, it’s so unfortunate for them!”, as if we didn’t all belong to the same humanity.
We reached the dispensing point with our bags, the man took them over and said goodbye. I looked at the refugees in the courtyard waiting under the rain to get some clothes or a medical appointment. I had seen four pairs of decent shoes, that would help only four people out of hundreds of daily newcomers.
I was soaked so I felt cold, tired, and discouraged by all that, so I left, and thought about the legend of Sisyphus and his barrel.

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