Iyad’s Cousins

I am back from my pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I wanted to blog with you while I was gone, kind of an accompaniment to the trip. But truly every time I tried to write something I had technical difficulties, which led me to believe that maybe God was saying to slow down and pay attention, to just be. I will be unpacking the events and emotions of this trip for a long time to come. Here is my first reflection.

I spent some time last night when I got home, and again this morning, unpacking stuff. I confess I bought a lot of stuff.  But here is how it went, we would get off the massive tour bus to go somewhere, and our guide, Iyad, would say, here are some of my cousins, they have good things at good prices, it would be great if you would help them. We all knew by the end that most of the people who were there certainly knew Iyad, but probably weren’t related.

But at the end, just as we were getting ready to get off the bus, after he had told us what to do and where to go, the time we were supposed to be back, or whatever was important, he would add almost under his breath, help them if you can, it might be all they have for their supper tonight.

It was the off season (the weather was great, cool and sunny), and there were not many tourists around (everything was cheaper). For us that meant no lines, quick service, great prices, and no heat exhaustion. For the venders, many of whom handcrafted their items, many of whom lived in isolated places, that meant there were fewer people to sell to, less chance of making enough money to feed their families.

So we bought things. My family and friends will have a good Christmas this year. We bought because the items were beautiful and represented the Holy Land. We bought because we imagined having to return home to hungry children. We bought knowing that was our role, to stimulate the economy for people in need. I wonder in this holiday season, when tourists are at home and travelers are few, what will happen to Iyad’s cousins and their families. Because in my Christian life, they are my cousins too.  It is just one of the many things I will be praying about this Christmas season.

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