“You are welcome here.”

By Leslie Graff

Three weeks ago I stepped off the plane in Amman, Jordan. “Welcome,” the immigration officer nodded as he snapped my picture and passed me back my freshly stamped passport.

If there was any one word I would come to hear a thousand times in 10 days it was welcome. In fact, it is the word I think of first when I think of Jordan. I guess I remember it because other than being printed on doormats or hotel signs, welcome isn’t really a word we use much other than in the context of “You’re welcome, ” our semi-conscious auto-pilot response to “Thank you.”

While it was certainly explicit in conversations, it was also so apparent in people’s actions.  It was everywhere, from the father and grandfather who offered to share tea with me during their child’s surgery,  or the mother who brought gifts of prayer beads and the Koran as thanks for our help. It was the little girl who slipped her ring onto my finger while we played in the playroom, and the many compliments and “mashallah”s of  of the mothers as they saw the pictures of my own children as we talked before their children’s surgeries. It was the in the “What can I do to help you?” and “Anything else you need?” I heard from dozens of volunteers each day.  It was even evident in the waiter who brought me an extra half a kilo of ice cream (in addition to the 1 kilo I ordered—which was already an outrageous amount) just to be hospitable. Not to mention, the invitations for dinner from parents or the medical students who treated us to dinner and gave us a tour of Amman. The spirit of welcomeness seemed to saturate the week and a half; it also permeated our communal meals of endless courses and generous portions.

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