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“Look for the Helpers”

“Look for the Helpers”

Istanbul, Turkey

May 25, 2019

I am here in Istanbul Turkey at the Nippon Hotel in Taksim Square with EMDR Consulting-(from Roy Kiessling)- to help with a 5 day EMDR Basic Training for 40 mental health clinicians. Many came from much farther than Istanbul. I thought I was coming here to help them learn-turns out they are teaching me more about life and being a helper than I ever could have imagined.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.” -----Fred Rogers.

“Don’t go to Turkey-it is dangerous there!”

“They don’t like Americans!”

“Don’t go-it’s not safe.”

These are a few of the words I heard when I told people I was going to Turkey to assist with a training for their clinicians. Being a blond haired, blue eyed girl from the USA, I was supposed to be not welcomed, not safe. The message was: Be afraid-you will be in danger-they won’t like you-don’t go-don’t do it. It is not a safe place for anyone to be.

And then, I met Hale-a child and adolescent psychologist who said to me, “I saw the warnings that said people shouldn’t come to Turkey-it is too dangerous. And then I thought-wait-I LIVE here… what does that mean for us that live here??”

In that moment, and in many moments since, I realized how little I really understand about what it feels to live in fear-and experience trauma-at least how I understood it.

And yet, the people who have welcomed us here, the 40 psychiatrists and psychologists who see these stories from their clients every day; who LIVE these stories every day, are coming to our training to be a helper. What a humbling experience.

I am here in my room with tears of, awe? Humility? Gratitude? There are no words to explain what it feels like to be in a place like this where life can be so dangerous and have the very people who live with that every day, taking care of us. And even more than that-they laugh so much, share so much-we came here to help them, and really they spent most of their making sure we feel welcomed. How can that be?

They shared their culture with us-the food-so much delicious food-and the meals are an ‘experience’ each time. We were able to have Ramadan meals with them-and try different types and ways of eating with them, all the while talking, laughing, sharing stories, learning words in Turkish and in English, and just sharing a sense of community and connection. We walked through Taksim Square, went up Galata Tower, toured the Haggai Sophia, and took a boat ride that showed us both the Europe and Asia side of Istanbul. We had tea and meals on both sides-we got to spend time on two continents in one day. And it was because the people from Turkey made it happen for us.

We had our crew-Ayten, Dogan, Elif, Buke, Hale, Songul, and Serkan who spent time with us on calls before we met. And meeting them in person was such an amazing experience! We also a had a translator, Didem, that translated the entire training as it happened, as well as conversations that we needed help to figure each other out. Gizam and Ayten kept us on task, and met all our needs both during, before and after the training. We were well taken care of!

And all of the participants that took almost a week of their time to come and learn EMDR, so they can better help their patients and clients-without them this would not have happened. We were so humbled at their willingness to learn and listen (through translation), and how much their attitude toward us made the training a success. We had a few technical difficulties and they were met with grace and understanding. By the end, we were able to greet and thank each and every person for being there. It is so honoring to be a part of their journey to help others.

These people-these are the helpers we see. These are the helpers who look at how and what they can do for others. The helpers who see 25-50 patients a day, yes, a DAY, because there are so many people here who are hurting and have been hurt. All the while these very helpers are living in a place that “you aren’t supposed to go.”

“But we live here” she said.

And yet…. They are still helping.

So, yeah, it feels different now. To understand, just a tiny bit better of why we need to keep doing what we do. To be the love in the world in the best way we can. To let it be bigger than us. I am humbled to be given the opportunity to share a little piece of their lives and maybe, just maybe, giving them a little bit of help at being the helpers for all of the people that they are helping. It fills my soul to be a small part of something that is so much bigger than me. To be a part of a group, that because of their education they could leave and work in a different country, yet they stay, and work to help their patients and embrace the differences in our cultures. In Istanbul, Islam, Judaism and Christianity all co-exist. We had people from each of these in our group, and we all respected and honored each other’s differences and embraced our similarities. Because, at the end of the day, each of us has a heart, a soul and wants to love and be loved. What better way than this…

And I need to say thank you to Roy Kiessling, founder and director of EMDR Consulting-for going through the ‘open door’ in Istanbul and answering their request for more training to help the helpers with their patients going through trauma. I am truly honored to have been a part of this experience.

And to those of you reading this, thank you. Thank you for taking the time to read it, and I hope someday you get to see and maybe even be one of the helpers. Because it matters. The world we live in can be painful and scary and dangerous and cruel. And yet, there are the helpers. The ones who take the time to reach out and help. Maybe you are one of them. Maybe you have been touched by one of them. If you have a story to share, please do. We need more reminders of what is good and kind in our world….

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