I met a refugee family last night, completely by accident. I was in the office helping out at a homework club, and they came over looking for the manager due to a plumbing emergency. Long story short, I ended up having to be the liaison to call the after-hours company, and then I had to be the one to tromp over to their apartment in the midst of a gigantic storm and tell them that no one could come fix it until the morning.
Knocking on the door, I deliver the bad news. Immediately, the family opens the door wider and invites me in for a cup of tea. If you know me, you know that these kind os experiences are a balm on my rough little soul, so I slipped in the door and sat down on the couch in the midst of a bare living room (two lamps the only other pieces of furniture that I saw, the lampshades put on upside-down) and I heard just a bit of their story.
They have been in America two weeks, they know no-one, they are from a country which is primarily Muslim and which they had to flee, they are optimistic yet daunted, mentally calculating how they have $50 a month for a family of five to buy necessities, the young teenagers are nervous to start high school this week. They tell me amazing stories of survival. I stir sugar cubes into my tea. I am the bearer of bad news, yet they just want to sit and talk and talk and talk. The mother (through her oldest son) asks me how old I am, a strange question that I honestly have not been asked before in these situations. 31, I tell her, and she smiles at me. I am 34, she tells me, in English. I have to hide my surprise, because I thought she was in her 50s. Her son explains she was married at 15, which is why she is so young yet her children tower over her.
My gosh I could sit there all day and soak in the stories. My gosh I could stay up all the night long wondering how I can communicate to you, the reader, the people of my country, what an absolutely precious gift these lives are. How refugees, more than any people I have ever met, have extended the kindness of Christ to me. But also: how razor thin the margins of survival are. How lonely so many feel. How there are families like this everywhere, everywhere, who just want someone to talk with for a little while, they want to drink tea and share what they know. But we have to be close enough to knock on the doors.
I wrote a little devotional of sorts for Off The Page, talking a bit about my own struggles with anxiety and how it is helping me have empathy for the deep wells of fear I keep hearing about. Last night and my accidental tea-time is just another confirmation that being in relationship with people is truly the best way to change our beliefs. I just feel so grateful for my life and experiences, even as they have brought pain and a closeness to suffering which can be hard to bear. Anyways, go on over to Off The Page and read about how I am trying myself not to be so afraid these days.
Other random things I have written/been a part of:
A round-table discussion on The Hunger Games for CT (where I get to drop phrases like "prophetic imagination" and "I love Peeta" (except I didn't actually say that last one but I meant to.
A round-table reminiscence of the influence and importance of JESUS FREAK by dc Talk--which is 20 years old this month!!!!! There are a ton of famous and cool people in this round table, and then there is me talking about my bizarro dreams (and my own Jesus tattoo).
Thanks for reading, and let's keep our neighbors both near and far close to our hearts, and may we lift their burdens up to God, the only one who can shoulder them fully.