Perspective and Proximity: the Curtailment of Pride
Written by Christy Bishop
Quote from the interview transcript with Eduardo and Adrianna used for inspiration in writing this piece:
Adrianna: We had many dreams because we were fine. Everything was good. But just when we thought everything was going to be fine, something comes along that destroyed everything. We had an excellent life but many people only know how to judge. They say “immigrants here, immigrants there,” but the reality is, no one knows what is going on with a person. I can be judged but no one knows what he and I are going through. There are times when we eat and times when we don’t. There are times when we try to get ahead but we don’t have sufficient strength. What he went through, what we lived together, it is hard to overcome. As his wife … I saw him covered in blood, beaten. . those who were to help us didn’t help us which really hurt us. It is really painful and really difficult to overcome. Yes, it is good to be here but I haven’t gotten over it yet because the blows were too hard.
But we plan to work real hard and what we couldn’t do in our own country we are going to do here. Trust in God, all will be well.
"Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man….It is the comparison that makes you proud: The pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Every day this week I’ve read some version of the comment, “well, then let them live in your house,” in response to social media posts or news articles about the humanitarian and compassion crisis at our southern border. To me, it is one of the most painful responses that has made me pause in deep reflection, asking some hard questions. I have so many questions: how do we decide who deserves refuge and who doesn’t? Have we ever needed refuge, or even imagined what circumstances would send us thousands of miles by foot to beg for refuge?
But it comes down to one: “who would I give shelter to?” Day after day, the questions continue to torment me. I get no answers from those locked in fear. I lie awake at night wondering what I can possibly say to help people understand what I’ve come to know for myself.
I don’t have the right to call myself a refugee or asylum seeker, but I am an immigrant American. I am a seeker, a pioneer, a sharer, a romantic, a dreamer, and a disciple with a fear of being a hypocrite. It doesn’t matter how I got to that first church (receiving asylum seekers directly from ICE detention centers) last November, but I can’t stop going back. I can’t turn down the chance to sit in the dirt and play with the children, to hug a weary mother who lets the tears flow when she hears me say “Bienvenido”. And a month ago, “they” came to my home. People keep telling me to write about it and I think, why? This is nothing new for my family welcoming a “stranger” into our home.
Last month was a family from Honduras, but I spent Easter with new friends from Honduras and Guatemala in a church unfamiliar to me. A refugee family from Liberia shared dinner in our home the month before. Easter, two years ago, we broke bread with a homeless drug addict 3 days into withdrawal. She spent 2 pain-filled nights in our home. So, whether in a church, a dirt lot, an appliance repair workshop, or our home, I’ve welcomed them into my life — “it’s the timing, closeness, and proximity” (Bernard Parks).
The Curtailment of Pride
On some level, I don’t want you to know about these people that are an intimate part of my life; they are my treasures. I feel immodest and exposed sharing them with you. So why is Eduardo & his beautiful family any different? Because I hear people say they would never shelter them. Would you shelter me? Or my children? I am no better than they are. I am no more worthy of refuge & shelter than this little family.
I have a childhood memory of climbing in dumpsters for bottles and cans for recycling money when we were new immigrants to this country. I remember how I felt when a neighbor in our apartment complex gave us 6 bowls and 6 cups, our first dishes.
I was reminded of those memories as I watched the way Eduardo interacted with his wife and children. The way Adrianna blushed when she asked if she could sit somewhere private and nurse their baby; the same way I would have blushed at that age. They expressed sincere gratitude for the food and clothing we gave them. I held their children and laughed and played with them- their daughter is spunky, active and intrepid; their son is fragile and timid. They are just like your children; precious, pure, and worthy of refuge. They are a young family, so young, and have lived through more life and more heartache than most of us ever will. They want to work hard and be your neighbor and show you their gratitude for saving them from the horror they left behind. I want to work hard and be your neighbor and show you my gratitude for sharing our country with me. They will make very fine Americans one day.
They are worthy of your shelter, protection, refuge and defense.
It was my privilege to have them in my home. And because I know their story I cannot look away; I cannot be silent. Their story is my story.
The Emerald Project is a Utah-based organization that carefully designs dialogues to engage with non-Muslims to make Salt Lake Valley a more welcoming home to Muslims. As many of our refugee friends belong to the Muslim faith, we applaud opportunities that foster understanding and were pleased to support The Emerald Project’s 3rd annual “Slam the Islamophobia” event on February 15th.
Refugees often risk their lives crossing deserts, jungles, and oceans all in the search for shelter, freedom, or happiness. Yet, even once they’ve reached physical safety, mental mountains emerge that make daily life an uphill climb. At the November 2022 conference for the Utah Chapter of the Society for Public Health Education (USOPHE), presenters Shurooq Al Jewari and Sasha Sloan discussed mental health and inclusion, focusing on immigrants and refugees.