Written by Megan Carson
While watching this moving video by Amnesty International, I was reminded of an experience I had last week. I took a day trip to a bigger city with a higher population of refugees. While out grocery shopping, I came across a family who caught my eye. I could hear them speaking in a language unfamiliar to me and noticed other details that told me they were likely from somewhere in the Middle East. I felt an urgent desire to know their story.
We passed each other in the store three or four times, each time my tongue tied up, preventing any words from coming out. I worried about putting them on the spot or making them uncomfortable. But, when we serendipitously found ourselves in the parking lot across the way from each other, I knew it was my last chance and I'd regret it if I didn't go say something.
I saw them stiffen a little as I approached their car with determined purpose in my step. I started by asking if they spoke English. The young adult son said he did, so I spoke to him, asking where they were from and if they were refugees. I introduced myself and explained that I noticed them in the store and I simply wanted them to know how happy I was that they are here.
The parents and the younger son all watched in anticipation, eager to understand what we were talking about. The young man turned to them to explain and when they turned back to me with beaming smiles stretched across their faces, I reached my hand out to each of them and said, "Welcome to America. Welcome."
They were stunned, as if they were being seen for the first time. Was it a little awkward to make the initial approach? Yes. Was that awkwardness worth it after seeing the joy on their faces, erasing any feeling they might've had of invisibility, then to be welcomed and accepted? Absolutely! It filled my heart with love and I imagine it did the same for them.
Go try it out. Find someone who looks lonely or perhaps feels invisible. Look them in the eye. See them. And then let them know that you see them. We all want to be seen, heard, and understood... but there are some among us who need it more desperately than we can possibly understand.
To me, the label “refugee” is a badge of honor. I invite you to honor and celebrate refugees and welcomers with me this month and to meet some of these heroes at TSOS's Virtual World Refugee Day event on 17 June.
As we strengthen our relationships with resettlement agencies, friends, and community partners, we are discovering that the work doesn't have to be big to be important.