Learning from refugees

 

As the refugee issue has heated to a boil in our country, my girls have formed their own opinions on the matter.  They decided to do something to make refugees in our country feel more welcome.  They, practically on their own, organized a holiday drive for the refugee center closest to us.  After about a month of gathering donations, we made the trip to the center.

The girls couldn’t wait to meet people. Though shy, they each had questions that they wanted to ask. Though these pictures are only a small snapshot of our experience that day, and though it is only representative of a tiny handful of refugees served by the CSIRP, I want you to see these people and see my children.

My girls made new friends. They met men from Iran who told them of the beautiful mountains of their home. A friend from Iraq had tears in his eyes because children from America wanted to meet him to find out what he was like, instead of listening to what was said on the news. He told them of the two rivers of his country, and about fishing. Friends from Congo told them about cassava and green bananas, carvings in wood, and the good people that filled their country in spite of the extreme violence. They met a whole family born in refugee camps and new friends from Sudan. They learned where Eritrea is. They learned that snow is new to a lot of people. :)

The girls filled the conference room with boxes, boxes of things donated by our friends and by people we had never met.  What an experience it was, for them to both encounter ugliness (from people who said horrible things to them about refugees) and light (from those who chose to give), and to see that, no matter how small, light triumphs.

They learned that these people love America. They love it. They love America more than we do. I have never known what makes people say that they want to come here and change us. They are so thrilled that there is a country like America.

One of my new friends said this: “America is a place to heal and to forget the terrible things in the world. I hope Americans thank God every day for this wonderful country. It is a place of peace. The people have such kind hearts. I can sleep here because I know I am safe. I couldn’t sleep in my country. God blessed me by sending me here, and I love America very much. I think that people are afraid of us only because they are blessed to live in a place where they don’t have to be scared. And it is such a blessing that there is a place where people aren’t afraid. I am so happy for them that they have always lived in this place! I am so happy that, by the grace of God, I live here, now.”

So for all of you who fear our new neighbors so very much, please know this: you are wrong. I’m sorry to put it so bluntly, but you are wrong. And those who are opening your hearts to new friends: you are RIGHT! You are so very right.  Our children are leading the way.

I always think I am teaching my children, but in reality, they are teaching me.

Be brave. Open your door and step outside. Be open to considering more than one idea.

Love thy neighbor. Faith over fear. Light over darkness. Love over everything.