Grazie, Italia

Italian Laundry.jpg
Italian laundry hangs from a line in the city of Ragusa in Sicily as thousands of refugees enter through its port.

Italy has a long and wonderful history, an amazing culture, and unbelievable food. And in many ways, this place is just like home and these people are just like us. They wake up in the morning and feed the kids. They go to work. They pay their bills. They do their laundry. They nod to one another on the streets. They enjoy sports and cappuccino. In many ways, they are us.

And so, imagine a woman knocks on your door. She says she lives down the street. You don’t know her but she explains that her husband beat her last night and she needs to come in so he can’t find her and beat her again. What do you do? You bring her in, right? Perhaps you call for help or offer her some coffee while you wait. But you don’t tell her to get out and return to the situation that drove her into the streets…do you?

Now imagine if 10 women show up at your door and with tears in their eyes report that they escaped from a home just around the corner. They’d been held captive and abused for years. They fear for their lives and ask for the shelter of your home. You let them in the door, right? You don’t turn them away and say, “It isn’t my problem.”

While we can reassure ourselves that these stories are never going to happen to us, this is the unfortunate reality and terrible problem facing Italy each and every day.

It started small, I’m sure. A boat of 200 showed up on the horizon filled with men, women and children. Some were injured and told stories of war and crime. Others were fleeing abuse and injustice. Some are simply unable to tell their story, the shock is too real on their faces. Italy cannot put them back in the water and ask them to return; that would be inhumane. They cannot simply shift the responsibility to someone else. They take these refugees into their home. They offer them shelter. They do the right thing.

It isn’t easy but it is right.

But more boats came…and they still come. It is estimated that as many as 150,000 – 200,000 people a year have arrived on the shores of Sicily in the past three years alone and there is no end in sight.

Italy continues to go to work, do their laundry, and pay their bills. But now they must process these refugees, attempt to offer housing, food, shelter, and hope. It is an impossible job but they do it anyway.

Despite this terrible situation and the crazy bureaucracy that is the Italian government, I have to thank them for being willing to take in those at their doorstep. It isn’t convenient. It isn’t easy. While others say no, they continue to say yes. As other countries shut their boarders, Italy leaves its door open.

And so, from the bottom of my heart, Grazie, Italia. Grazie.

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