When filling out the profile, I really liked that they had a section for “Teach, Learn, Share.” Under the premise that surfing isn’t just about a place to sleep, but about an exchange, they gave a place to share any sort of special knowledge or insights you might have.
So when I got to that section, the following is what I shared…
When I was simply crossing a park in Athens on my way to someplace ancient, carting my bag as well as some leftovers which were meant for my supper, I came across three homeless men. The only three I saw in that country, I believe. They spoke to me, eventually in perfect English, with respect and politeness they tried to induce me to stop for a moment. I'm a girl, traveling alone in my first foreign country in a shrouded area at dusk. What did I do? I stopped. Sure there were things I wanted to see, places I wanted to go, but this was after all truly Greece right here in the park.
After some conversation around a burning trash barrel by a park bench, they insisted I eat with them - & were insulted when I pulled out my own food. First of all, the food they shared was phenomenal - the churches made sure they were very well fed, so it was one of the best meals I had in Greece. But then chatting with them I discovered that one of them had worked for years at one of the most famous restaurants in New York. He told me about serving all the famous people of the 60's & 70's and who really had been magnificent and who had been horrid. Another had been a merchant marine & told of some thrilling adventures & travels as well. The third told shyly of the love of his life, whom had eventually died after many years of joy together. We all talked and laughed into the wee hours.
In the end, I discovered the one who had lived in America had recently inherited a tiny two room flat, and knowing I hadn't yet found a bed for the night, insisted I stay at his place. The other two explained they were homeless by choice. They enjoyed this life, even on cold January nights like that one. Indeed, they were some of the most contented people I'd ever met. I'll never forget any of them nor those hours around the rubbish bin fire where they, each one, enriched my life.
Never discount the little moments. Take every opportunity to embrace life, but even more to experience the people around you, whatever their status. Don't miss the people for the place; don't miss the now for the past; don't miss the beauty in front of you for the dust on it's shell.
There is so much more to that story, like how horrid my host’s home smelled because he had recently painted it… and they put crazy stuff in their paint there. I believe I may have experienced something akin to an acid trip. I mean, I wouldn’t know because I’ve never dropped acid, but… it was SOMETHING. In that neat, sparse room were there REALLY bed bugs, or was it all part of the hallucination?
Still, great people, great experience, and many, many great stories… all because I stopped for people most pretend don’t exist.