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There was a time at the start of the Covid, in the middle of May 2020, that I took a break of two weeks and decided with my partner to visit a seaside village, just outside Athens, in Greece.


We would start our day every morning with a walk by the sea and deliberately passing by an old -somewhat ugly and poorly built- house, no one to be seen inside and only outside, with an extraordinary garden with dozens and dozens of roses, leaving us every time flabbergasted by its beauty. Some of our nights, after our long walks we would return to that very garden, where he would use his car keys to cut a rose for me, leaving my face with a smile and my heart filled with his love!


One morning, during our usual promenade, we found ourselves again walking towards the same garden but this time it wasn’t just roses! With a few steps closer, we were standing before the fence and with a few more glances we realized that the garden was not empty of people. An old man was gardening at the side of the old house. A middle-aged man was doing some tree cutting at the middle of the yard. And an old lady was sitting next to my favourite rose bush, staring at the waves and sea. 


She looked older than she really was! Serious, with a wooden stick next to her feet. Next thing I know, I turned my body towards her with my smile on and surprised her loudly saying “Kalimera!” (=Good Morning in Greek). She smiled back, acting speechless. “Your garden looks amazing, but your roses are exceptional!” I continued. She smiled and then grabbed her wooden stick and tried to get off her chair, obviously in pain, while her right foot was slower than the other. She came closer to the fence, cut a rose and raised her hand over the fence to give it to me. But this time I was the one surprised! There were two of them but she said “these are the young ones, ready to bloom the next few days”! What an amazing gesture, I said to myself whilst looking at him; she gave me her garden’s best gift as a kind exchange to one “good morning”, a young smile and a few warm words...


“What is your name?”, I asked her and I added, “mine is Joy”. She said “Filio” (which in Greek means friendship) and we both smiled. 


We left, with a huge smile, a warm heart and two baby roses in the hand, which made the perfect background for our daily insta photos. But I couldn’t forget her. “How much money do we have in our pockets?”, I asked my love, as we had just left our summer house for a walk, without thinking that we would need money to buy anything after our breakfast. “Just two euros, only enough to buy a bottle of water...” he replied. “It’s more than enough!”, I said with a huge smile and I grabbed his hand, nodding him to follow me. 


We crossed the road and entered into a small mini market, which was selling just ice creams and cigarettes, along with toys for kids and plastic balls for the beach. “Can you please tell me which of your ice creams cost less than 2 euros?”, I asked. And the young girl at the register tried to read the catalog. Before she even gave me an answer, I had already spotted the ice cream that my father used to enjoy, when I was young, the creamy cocktail with the syrup and cherries. The one that my grandparents used to enjoy, too. Sweet memories popped-up instantly! “I want that one” I said and pointed to the ice cream, took the change and rushed out of the mini market. He smiled and put my hand into his, while he cut one small purple flower from the road, one of his ways to show me his love. I thanked him with a kiss, but this time I told him that the flower will be given to the old lady along with the ice cream. He agreed with his smile, while running back to our favourite garden.


“Hey, can you please give that to Mrs. Filio?”, I asked to the middle-aged man who was near the fence, when we approached the house with the roses. “What have you done? What is this? Oh, Joy I can’t believe you...”, Filio said with a different tone in her voice this time, as she was moved by the gesture. My eyes were filled with joy and tears as I said to her “I didn’t do anything. You did it. You smile to me everyday through your roses and today you smiled to me with your heart when I said good morning” and I pointed to the young roses in my hand. “Come back again whenever you pass by this village…” Filio said, while my partner was hugging me and kissing me, whispering words of love. “I promise I will!”, I replied and I thought how much joy we all shared when I exchanged a “good morning” with a stranger… Small gestures, bring joy indeed… 


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