jennifer hanigan

a pinch of this and a dollop of that

My Favorite Refugee

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What, you don’t have a favorite refugee?

The year I was born, a group of siblings-refugees-was brought to the U.S. and sponsored by the church I now attend.  In addition to basic human decency and compassion, the Bible is pretty clear about how we’re to treat refugees, those in need, and children without parents.  “Y” and his siblings were all those things at the time.  But I’m not here to tell his story, or lecture everyone about Christian behavior.

You see, in the recent discussion of refugees and our responsibilities and our fears, I think something important has been left out.  I’ll try to explain.

Y made friends, went to school, married, and had children.  Normal things that anyone might do anywhere.  His youngest two children, a son and a daughter, are my younger son’s closest friends.  My son and Y’s son went away to college together last fall.  They’ve worked out living arrangements with Y’s sister- and brother-in law, who live in the same town as the university the boys attend.  This was an unbelievable blessing, because there was simply no way my son could afford to live in a dorm or rent an apartment while he was there.  And not only does he get to live cheaply, but he and Y’s son have the emotional and practical support of family (and each other)–the kind of support that can make the difference between success and failure.

Did you catch that?  Taking in one refugee resulted in my kid going to University.  My fifth-generation American son of Irish and German descent.

Then there’s the dozens of meals Y’s family and mine have shared.  And the time he showed up on my doorstep with the makings of an entire Thanksgiving dinner.  And the months he spent teaching my son and other homeschooled kids a foreign language.  And how he spends many of his days off from his regular job substitute teaching in the local schools.  And the hours he spends helping recent immigrants learn to drive and navigate life in the U.S.  And the awesome things his kids have brought to the world around them.

And this is what is missing from the current discussion.  Oh yes, we have a responsibility, as people, and (when it applies) as Christians.  We should, without a doubt, do the right thing.  But doing the right thing quite often–nearly always, in fact–brings rewards.  So I ask you to keep in mind that these people our nation is bickering over, these traumatized and beleaguered and battered and bruised and tired and hungry people, these people who need us?  We need them, too.




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