“My journey started on a boat…” the most beautiful sentence of the year | chronicle

When I went to Lisbon to present my book on the missions, I had one of the most emotional moments of my life. At the Faculdade de Medicina da Nova, I had the privilege of being treated to a packed auditorium, and, perhaps because I didn’t have my mother in the audience, I began by remembering my departure for my first mission, in which I would go to the Republic Democratic Republic of Congo, having no idea what was waiting for me.

It was at the wedding of one of my best friends, on the eve of my departure, when, at a certain point in the loud party, I grabbed my mother to dance. Happy, cheerful and content, with me recording my mother’s smile in my memories. When I took a break from dancing, I left the tent to go outside to vent my emotions, accompanied by a friend. Without noticing it, I began to cry, clinging to him like a repentant Magdalene. Dominated by the fear of not seeing my mother, my friends again, and already suffocated by the longing anticipated on the eve of the mission to the confines of Africa in the midst of a dark civil war.

I told this story, unable to help but feel immense emotion at reliving that moment aloud. I told many other stories about people, about countries. About the beauty of parts of the planet that suffer the unimaginable, and that we insist on completely despising, just because it is more comfortable for us not to look, not to feel. But what struck me the most about this event was the ending.

During the stage where I turn the floor over to the audience for questions or comments, a girl stands up and says something like: “I didn’t know Dr. Gustavo, but I saw on Catarina Furtado’s Instagram that she was coming to give this presentation and I decided to show up (thanks, Catarina, for this and for so much more; sometimes, sharing changes many people’s lives, and this one changed mine). I returned a few days ago from a mission in a refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece, and I realized now that I have to give you two hugs. I heard more than once about a Portuguese doctor that I now understand who he is. The first hug, which I was asked to deliver when they found out I was Portuguese, is from a gentleman from Syria, who said that Dr. Gustavo saved his wife’s life in a complicated obstetric emergency (I started to shake with emotion; I was in Syria in 2013, in the region now devastated by the earthquake and still facing the worst war of our times).”

“And the second hug, which I was asked to deliver, is from a little boy from Iraq, from Mosul, who says that Dr. Gustavo saved his brother’s life, victim of a bombing. And that he says he loves football, and that, unlike his friends who are fans of Real Madrid, Barcelona or Manchester, he became a fan of Futebol Clube do Porto!”

Once again I couldn’t hold back the tears. Years after Syria and Iraq, passing through Lesbos, it reached me in Lisbon, direct as a spear to my heart, the best gift they could offer me. It’s curious that I don’t remember any of the stories, but it seems that the beautiful things we do are tattooed on the hearts of humanity forever.

This week we heard what for me is the most beautiful phrase of the year: “My journey started on a boat… and then in a refugee camp”, by Oscar winner for best supporting actor, Ke Huy Quan, who had already delighted us with his performance as the “Asian kid from Indiana Jones”.

Refugees are not the “disease”; they are the “symptom of the disease” that is war. We must concentrate our greatest energy on understanding and treating the “disease”, which sometimes seems impossible to us, but it is not. In the meantime, we can do much more to alleviate the “symptoms” of this “disease” and better receive and treat refugees like human beings.

There are incredible success stories like Ke Huy Quan from Vietnam or the Mardini swimming sisters from Syria (The Swimmersbeautiful movie from Netflix) or Real Madrid soccer player Eduardo Camavinga​, a refugee from Congo, who not only plays for one of the best clubs in the world, but also represents the French national team, the country where he grew up and lived.

The world is as much more beautiful as we want it to be, and it is within the reach of all of us to touch a human life that was born on the “illness” side of the planet.

And the good we do is kept in the heart of humanity until infinity.

Gustavo’s chronicles Ride are sponsored by the Manuel da Mota Foundation in favor of Doctors without Borders

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