The wish the elders gave Elli

Elli Tholouli is a colleague in Athens, Greece who wrote this beautiful reflection after coming home from work one day.  It seemed a perfect story about Thanksgiving (our upcoming US holiday).  I asked Elli’s permission to share it with you.  And would love to hear your reflections to share with Elli.

Athens, 15th November 2017

“Are you ok” ? Asked one dear client when he came in today, as he was surprised that I confirmed our appointment at 4am on his e-mail. Correctly, I hadn’t slept too well.  Later, after a long day at the office, offering psychotherapy, I took the train to go back home. I travel from one end of the train route to the other across the capital. It takes almost an hour.  I found a seat and rested there, tired, with a heavy bag on my lap.

Soon the train got packed as usual.  A while later, a couple of very old looking, very wrinkled ladies entered. That is strange; old people avoid commuting on rough hours, never mind on a rainy day. I took a quick look; I should get up to offer my seat, even though they were quite far from me; felt guilty to sit there. But I was tired too, and my bag was heavy and had a long way to go.  But it looked so ugly for those ladies to be standing.  I was reminded that all day I was stressing the importance of posture for compassionate training, breathing and imagery exercises. I reflected on the importance of posture in this context and got up and offered my sit .  Then the person next to me offered his seat spontaneously too and so both old ladies sat quietly.

One of them told me that my bag’s zip was open.  I thanked her.

A loud voice, coming from another passenger on the train, warned everyone that there are pickpockets on the metro and his brother lost all his licenses, IDs etc and wallet and advised us to all be careful of our belongings.

A seat was vacant later and the old lady asked me to sit.

I sat there. I was planning to open my PC to work but the train was too packed and didn’t want to provoke people with my  expensive laptop. I looked at the ladies;

“How old are you, I wonder”? I asked them.

“I am 85. My friend is younger and looks after me. She is 75”.

“I admire you getting on the train”, I said.

“We are trying to find some pleasuring activities, we went to buy incense and candles from the market downtown”.

So the conversation went on and I reminded myself how old people enjoy to talk with others and decided to stay present and continue the conversation.

I will share only the one of the three hard stories this conversation revealed.

“You young people, feel so easily discouraged and just consider suicide as a way out”, the young old lady said with warm sympathy.

“We too faced hardships. Our house was burnt by the Germans during the war and my family and the whole village hid on a cave. I was two years old but my sister was 40 days old. My mother didn’t have any milk as she was malnourished and the baby was hungry and crying. The villagers told her that the baby’s cry could betray their hideout and they would all die.  So mother, raised her newborn daughter in the air for her to get baptized to sacrifice her and said: there you go, take my baby so that the whole village can survive, it is up to God to keep her safe.

But the baby didn’t die!  She survived”.

They gave me their cordial wishes when I was about to leave the train.

“We cannot wish you a life without struggles but we wish you to have the strength to endure them, and if possible that they will be light”, wished me the wise ladies.

“ I thank you for inspiring me with your strength to be out of the house and continue with your life.  You are such a great example”.

“Really?, they wandered happily.

So this and a lot more can happen if we are mindful of our posture.

Elli Tholouli

Psychologist – Compassion Focused Therapist

Athens, Greece

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