Our Uber ride, Amer, has been waiting at pole 5 in Queen Alia Airport in Amman for me, my wife Laila, Omar and his mom Enas, with a beautiful smile that marked the brightest start for our journey of leaving a positive trace in this world. On our way to him, I got to know Omar and Enas a little more for we haven’t met before (after all, you need to know a thing or two before sharing a ride with someone, right?). To his surprise, Amer could never guess that we had just met. We clicked as though we’ve known each other for years. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I ask 14-year-old Omar the most typical question any teenager receives. Predictably, Omar says, “I still haven’t decided yet.” Looking out the window, sticking my right hand out with Amman’s fresh breeze tickling my fingers, I took it upon myself to help him decide, here and now. Before we know it, Amer declares our arrival at the hotel, already.
Good night sleep and here I was having breakfast with my new friend Omar. I asked him “what’s the most important thing in life?” This time, his answer was a massive shock to me as it wasn’t as predictable as the one he gave me the night before. He said with complete wonder and exclamation marks flying all over his head, “aah… I think… aah… I think the most important thing in life is living in the present moment. Not dwelling on the past nor worrying about the future; just living the now.” Coming to that realization at such young age can’t be overestimated. “Oh crap! It’s 8:35 am! We must be on the bus by 8:30 am! Let’s rush before it leaves.” And off we went.
On our way to Irbid, all I could think of was Omar’s perfect answer to my very complicated question. Here I was, summoning all my strength to pull some thoughts from going to my future and dragging some other from the past in a desperate pursuit to bring them to this moment as I was on my way to see urban Syrian refugees and help them survive Jordan’s severe winter. I failed in that quest as my thoughts were taking me to those refugees. How are they doing? How is life treating them? Are they warm? Did they eat today? I honestly expected the worst.
We arrived at our third Refugee family we were planning to help. “All I can see is your smile,” I finally said it to Aunt Manal whose positivity was loud enough to silence me for a while. She’s been taking care of her three mentally-ill and disabled siblings since she was nine years old after her mom passed away. Her father and elder brother left her after the war in 2011 and never came back letting our hero all by herself with three innocent hopeless souls under a torrent of explosions and attacks.
“Anyway, it’s all in the past. Now I have you in my house. I can tell that my siblings are joyous to have you here as well. I’m healthy. And that’s enough for me to be happy.” Those words of Manal’s left me puzzled for the rest of the evening as we were going back to Amman. How can someone with such horrific circumstances still pull out a smile on her face? Little did I realize that Manal chose to forget yesterday, not worry about tomorrow, and enjoy today with all its gifts and blessings. But more importantly, what do you and I choose to do?