Settling into JOY. I've discovered that for me, this has been a long journey, albeit a beautiful one. Sometimes it's difficult to believe I've only been in Italy a little over three months. And so much has happened in that time that gives me joy.
From the big 'exhale' when I first arrived in Milan, easing into this big dream that I've held close for years, to the six weeks in the flat over the incredibly noisy bar with my wonderful view of the lake, to the 'big move' to 'il mio posticino tra gli alberi' ( My little place in the trees). So much.
I've made some friends. I've learned how things work in a village that dates back as far as 900 A.D. I've heard the joyful sound of 'Ciao Tia!' ring out in the piazza, on the lago lungo ( the boardwalk by the lake) and in the small grocery store and Thursday market. It's worth breaking through my introverted wall to introduce myself and say hello week after week. I can feel the community here, something I never found in London or where people live and work far apart. I'm so grateful for my London friends who broke through their walls to invite me in. They will stay in my heart always. In America, I lived in the same neighbourhood for 23 years and barely knew my neighbors, even thoughI tried. Community there is based on 'sameness'. The same schools, the same churches, the same sports. It's transitory and the suburban life rarely feels connected- or at least that is how it felt to me.
But here, this is different. Here's an example. Last week I walked to the 'far' end of town (a 3 minute walk from the 'center' lol) to the Farmacia to renew a prescription. We are all still observing Covid protocols, so only 3 people are allowed in at separate counters at once. There were about 6 people waiting and chatting in the small piazza in front, all masked, all smiling, all patient. A man and his friend walked up to join the queue and an a chorus of 'Ciao Fredo' rang out. He laughed and returned the greeting. Then someone said, 'Auguri Fredo!'. This is the traditional Birthday greeting. One by one everyone waiting added their personal greeting. I was by that point, next in line to go in, facing away from the crowd and smiling so big, and after a moment, I turned to him and added mine. And then I said " Mi piace molto un piccolo village, dove tutti sanno che è il tuo compleanno." ( I love so much a small village where everyone knows when it's your birthday!) . And everyone laughed and nodded and smiled. Because they know that in this sort of community, no one ever has to feel alone. A walk to the 'bar'(for coffee), or to sit on one of the many benches by the lake is like the best kind of family visit. People here might leave for school or work or to 'see the world' , but they come back. For this.
I know that some of you are migrating part of your lives to places where you can have a taste of this, and some of you are moving your whole lives. It's worth it. The last two years has taught many of us of the importance of connection. And for me - this enormous leap of faith across a continent and an ocean, is worth it. I feel this community rising up to welcome me. And I know that feeling will only grow.
I thought that navigating the many steps on the path to formal residency was the most important part of this first few months. But I was wrong.
The truth is, I can't help but believe that the process unfolded so perfectly because I am meant to be here. To become part of this place, to share my joy in all the simple beauty of the history, the land and the people . And to let it fill me up - without apology. We all deserve this, and it's only taken me a lifetime to understand this. I hope that you don't wait another moment to breathe in whatever and whomever gives you that same feeling. The one I get when I look out the windows each day at the glorious mountaintops above the shimmering lake, feeling the power of the universe, and my own beating heart.
Let it soak in to your heart -that joy. Because you deserve it too.
Are you hungry? And if you are, right now, wherever you are, how difficult is it for you to find something to eat? And if you for some reason don't have anything you want at hand, is it feasible for you to hop in your car, or walk, or take a bus or train to a market where you can buy what you need? Hunger, for most of us, is a minor inconvenience. In first world countries hunger is still a problem, but often only the poor and marginalised people really experience the full impact of going hungry on a regular basis. But around the world, starvation and death are happening every day.
After the past two years of isolated zoom based gatherings to celebrate holidays, I am watching the topic of food become a daily subject on social media, and among conversations with friends. And it bothers me , because although I certainly understand our desire as humans to reestablish traditions and enjoy the connections we treasure, I can't ignore what I'm watching happen around the globe.
Covid, Climate Change, and the violence that is more plentiful than any harvest is wreaking havoc on the food supplies around the world. There are small things we can and should do in our personal lives to contribute to the safety of others, the life of our planet, and the election of leaders who will hold others accountable for acts of aggression against the innocent whether in our own country or across the world. Because you are mostly people I know well, I believe you are each doing those things.
But let me tell you why I'm so worried about hunger.
The #1 driver of hunger on the planet is man made conflict.
Did you know...
690 million people are chronically undernourished
99% of people living in hunger are in low and middle income countries
Women and girls account for 60% of people living in hunger worldwide
BABIES are dying from starvation at an unprecedented rate in the most hard hit countries.
The top countries facing the largest incidence of death by starvation at this moment are
The Congo, Afghanistan, Yemen, Nigeria and Ethiopia.
I believe that most of us have so much more than we need. So I'm focusing my holiday budget on something that will help others get just a little of what might help them survive the brutal famine that is affecting our fellow humans. I'm asking if you'd like to help too, I've pulled together some legitimate and well regarded groups that are engaged in these areas and others to help feed the people.
Remember that even the smallest donation will help. (Think your daily pumpkin spice, or glass of vino?) If you prefer to give locally, find a food bank or shelter in your community and do what you can. Make sure that you ask questions about what is most useful to the people who receive the help so that you can make useful contributions.
Together we can do so much.
Talk to your friends ( feel free to share the link to this blog), your churches and other groups that want to help. Get your kids and other family members involved, maybe an Elf on the shelf game that creates donations? Maybe set up a "Piggy Bank" for the new year to build donations over time. Let me know what you come up with!
Thank you for anything you are able to do. After all, isn't learning to share what we have one of the very first lessons we are taught? And in this case, it's actually a matter of life or death.
World Central Kitchen, Chef Jose' Andreas' is focused on stopping hunger and supporting climate change in America and around the world
United Nations World Food Program addresses global need with unique ways to support their efforts. https://www.wfp.org/get-involved
Also check out their 'Share The Meal' App - https://sharethemeal.org/
You can see where your donations go, choose the country to support and see the progress your support creates!
Action Against Hunger - 40 years, 45 countries and 25 million people fed. 93% of all donations go directly into providing food.
Feeding America - This group works with farmers, retailers and manufacturers to prevent food waste by redirecting surplus to the people who need it most.
The Hunger Project focuses their efforts on women and mobilising local communities to create systems that will help them provide their own food, through education, supplies and collaboration with local governments.
Thanks for reading, and sharing, and giving if you are so inclined. Together we can make a difference .