There are some stories that I keep so very close to my heart .. yet, it would almost be a tragedy not to share them at least in part.
I've been blessed to sit for hours listening to stories of locals and foreigners alike.. and some just take my breath away... This story is one of them.
Chronicles of the Old City Street Boy
I received a call “Can you come down in 10 minutes?” I say “yes” as usual, grab my camera and hurry myself not to be late. I stop at Aroma and pick up a coffee or rather a too milky cappuccino, two sugars and a stir. I arrive at the bottom of the stairs and receive another call. “Look for a man in overalls and a red jacket, find him and tell him I will be there in 5 minutes.”
I have no idea who I am looking for exactly – but there are two gentlemen looking vaguely lost in the distance. I yell at them, “Are you waiting for someone?”... “Yes” he replies. They are journalists and a photographer coming with us to cover an event we are heading out too. “He’s on his way, let’s cross to the other side and he will pick us up from over there.”
He pulls up with his son in the vehicle. I hand him his too milky cappuccino that he will grumble about and never say thank you for - and I climb into the back seat. He greets the two men and we are off on a series of stops before the event.
One of the journalists is an Isreali Jew and he’s particularly nervous that day as we prepare to cross into Bethlehem.. past the ominous RED WARNING SIGNS saying for ALL ISREALIS to stay OUT. He occupies himself by twisting his hands together and staring out the window. Silent for the most part.
At one point the German journalist in the front seat asks... “So, tell me how long has your family been in the Old City?”
I lean in to hear. I watch him run his hand through his hair and tilt his head to the side as his custom. I could see his reflection in the rear view mirror and watched as a small smile spread across his lips and he took a breath and started to recant a story of his heritage all while weaving effortlessly in and out of traffic.
I am only second generation here. My grandfather and grandmother on my father’s side were the first here. My grandfather was a survivor of the genocide. He shared about the Young Turks invading their homeland 101 years ago. The Armenian Genocide where 1.5 million Armenians were murdered for their faith and over 750,000 Assyrians were also murdered.
My grandfather was a little boy about three years old. His father, my great grandfather was very wise. He had a photo taken of the family and copies made for each child. He gave each one a photo and a cross and told them to run. To get away!
So, my grandfather, with his brothers and sisters fled. We don’t know how long after that he was found on the side of the street by a group of travelers and they picked him up. They found a young widow, a very young widow and they asked if she could take this little boy and she did. She raised him as her own and took very good care of him. Very good care. Once he became a young man, this young widow wanted the young man for herself, as a husband, but my grandfather didn’t want that and left her.
He made his way though Turkey where he met a beautiful young woman, my grandmother.
The journalist asked “ What country? Where was this?” and Street boy answered, Turkey.
“What happened to your great grandfather?” asked the journalist. We don’t know. Many people were being murdered and for him to tell all his children to run must have meant danger.
The journalist asked if he could interview him at a later date and tell his story. He said ‘yes, why not?’.
I sit in the back seat and tears are running down my face as he recants the story I’ve heard now on a few occasions. Each time it makes my heart heavy and so very thankful. I look to my left and see his young son with his face pressed against the window. He is a reflection of his father and I am sure he is a reflection of his and in that I can see his grandfather, the Wise man in him. It makes the story all too real for me.
What if, his great grandfather had not been so wise? What if that little baby boy running alongside of the road had not been saved? All of a sudden Street Boy would have never existed, nor his son sitting next to me.
I think of this man, the driver, the Street Boy and how God uses him greatly on a daily basis to make a difference in others lives and how he desires to build reconciliation between two people groups and bring peace and better lives for many.
Then I look at him through the rear view mirror and I see a flash of green eyes looking back at me and he smiles knowing I love to hear his stories and I smile back and I say a prayer under my breath of thankfulness for this particular Street Boy for he is my friend and God has big plans for him and his!