Greece, Pennies, and Friends

About two months ago I traveled with my husband and two of our friends to Greece in the midst of the Greek financial crisis, watching as Greece stood at the brink of bankruptcy. 

Yet, the first few days we faced this news unaware. Actually, right before we boarded our plane a stranger eavesdropped on us predicting what the weather would be like while we were in Greece and inserted "Greece?! What an interesting time to visit." We all began asking questions to appear like we were informed twenty-somethings, but really as an attempt to figure out what exactly she meant by this statement. She began to give us the Reader's Digest in current world news and caught us up to speed on the Greek crisis. 

A few hours later we hopped off of our plane in Athens and immediately explored the ancient ruins. The next few days were filled with a plethora of adventures, mostly encompassed through plans that minimally followed our itinerary and had us following winding mountain roads.

Yet, it wasn't until we made our way to Thessaloniki that I paid attention to our surroundings. Lines filled the ATMs. Protesters gathered at the heart of the city regularly. The TVs all read the same headline. Just because I live in a different context didn't lessen the reality of Greece's financial crises, then and now.

So much of my life is comprised of unseen notions of how the world truly functions. Yet, I am not made aware of the reality of most situations until I'm undeniably facing them. (I am assuming this is the same for 99.99% of the world). 

We came to Greece to film interviews for a documentary we are working on that highlights our friend who is taking practical steps towards combating sex trafficking in the 21st century.

So sex trafficking had become one of those notions, where in theory I was for fighting against this injustice but in reality I was completely unaware of the severity of this issue. 

  • Every 30 seconds, someone becomes a victim of modern-day slavery –
  • There are more slaves in the world today than at any other point in human history, with an estimated 27 million in bondage across the globe –

Through helping with this documentary, I was piled with stats and government reports and news articles and personal stories that shared the horrendous act of sex trafficking. Yet, the actuality of all of this - this situation, those victims - became real that night in Thessaloniki, Greece when we were standing on a balcony in our hotel that backed an alleyway lined with brothels. Those girls in those brothels were real. The tears that flooded one of my dearest friend's eyes that night were real. Sex trafficking is real, and is a pervasive crime that is unseen to the majority of our world.

My friend chose not to sit in this brokenhearted situation and the unsettledness that came with it, but took what she had to make this unseen issue, a seen crime in our world today. She chose to give those girls a voice, and my life is forever changed by this courage and bravery.

I could go on forever about Kendall Altmyer and her pennies and the amazing leaps the Penny Story has taken towards bringing light to a dark situation... but how about you take some extra time to read it here.

So I'm not sure if there is a huge point to take away from this post other than I am choosing to take daily strides towards becoming more aware of issues that may go unseen, I am immensely inspired and proud of my world-changing friends, and stay on the look-out for the Common Cents doc (premiering tonight at the Polk Theatre/available online soon). 

Maybe this life advice too:

Travel frequently. Experience new cultures. Surround yourself with brilliant friends who are making a difference in the world. And force yourself to become undeniably aware of what sits in front of you.

Common Cents tells the story about an ordinary girl who uses the metaphor of a penny to create awareness of modern day slavery. This documentary depicts what can happen when a dream becomes a movement and people unite to fight for human life.

Annalee MutzComment