Working with Refugees

boarding the bus
It’s been on my mind to write about working with the refugees. This is FIRST in a short series. Here, while dressing and driving, I imagine what the refugees are doing.

* * *

8:35. plenty of time.
I fix my bedhead and think of them, hurrying to catch their first bus.

While I walked my dog through the neighborhood so he’d sleep the morning away, they were getting older ones off to school, strapping babies on their backs, taking younger ones by the hand, pulling shut their front doors and heading out.

I consider my bare face in the mirror and a sense of emergency sweeps over me, the need for mascara. I apply it, then I wipe off the excess a more stylish person could get away with. Next time I’m buying a less gloppy mascara.

I have my brief daily lament over not being more stylish and wonder if any of them think about these things.

I think of stuff I want to do when I get home later, the stuff I could do right now if I was staying home – the letter I could finish writing, the chapter I could finish reading, the airline tickets I need to buy. I set a reminder about the airline tickets on my phone.

I think of them, riding along, stopping every few blocks. I wonder what things are on their afternoon lists.

Downtown, they are making connections, getting on the bus that will bring them out to the highlands and drop them.

I puzzle over whether to wear the teal shirt or the red stripe. I favor the teal, but did I just wear that last Thursday? If so, will anyone care, except me? Maybe I’ll go with the red stripe. Ooo, wait a minute. Here’s the black. I forgot that one was clean.

I pack up my alphabet handouts, my props. Today’s letter is “B.” Ball. Banana.
Baseball bat (a miniature one from the Slugger Museum tour). Book. Bags (4 types). Bus, bed, broom, bicycle (pictures of these).

We will nail down “B” and probably spent a good deal of time differentiating it from “D,” which, in lower case, looks a lot the same.

b and d

D is for dog. They are all afraid of dogs. I learned this the last time we did a walk-and-talk through the park. What have dogs represented to them in the past? I wonder.

9 AM.
I push the button that opens the garage door.
I put my stuff in the back. I fasten my seal belt, set temperature controls, turn on my audiobook. Backing out, I pause in the driveway to survey the gardens.

I drive in comfort past the little airfield where flying lessons are given, through the upscale restaurant district and into the historic neighborhood with its tree-lined streets and big, old homes. The Baptist church on the corner there allows classroom space 3 days a week for the teaching of English to refugees. Three days a week I park my car at the curb and walk 50 feet to the church door to teach and again discover how much I don’t know about English.

It is the most satisfying work of my life. I have no explanation for this.

I wonder how much flak the Baptists have taken for drawing refugees here. I think about that at least once a week, especially when I spot some students coming up the sidewalk from the other direction, children in tow, all manner of dress and hijab. They are a sight, coming up from where the #23 bus leaves them off a few blocks away.

I haven’t a clue how to ride a city bus.

Nine months into this, I no longer see them as a block of people, but as individuals whose names I know.

They do not seem to know mine. My name is difficult for them. I have taken to wearing a name tag. Still, when they have a question or need assistance, they call me what they call all the English-speaking adults in the room: “Tee-cha!” But I’m the one learning a lot, seeing my routines and thought patterns in a new light.

* * *
You might also like:

Teaching English to Refugees

Teaching English to Refugees

About Marilyn

Reading, thinking, listening, writing and talking about faith, creativity, ESL for refugees, grief and finding the story in a story. Student of Spanish. Foe of procrastination. Cheez-it fan. People person with hermit tendencies or vice-versa. Thank you so much for reading.
This entry was posted in intentional relating, languages, people, perseverance, refugees. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Working with Refugees

  1. Laura Brown says:

    Thanks for inviting us to think about them and see them.

    You have inner style. It radiates through, regardless of how you’ve dressed yourself or your face.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marilyn says:

      Thank you for that, Laura. It’s funny, encountering in myself the notion that I can’t possibly think of going without putting on mascara first. What makes me think people will notice that? i keep learning new things about myself.


  2. Jacki Tanner says:

    I love it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Julie Longacre says:

    I miss you, Marilyn! I appreciate your prophetic post that doesn’t make me feel ashamed, but curious and invited onto a journey with you. Blessings to you as you help these dear new friends make a new home!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. pastordt says:

    I love this series, Marilyn – thank you, both for doing this good work and for writing it down for us.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Marilyn,
    You bring clarity with your compassion and your writing..Enjoyed your post…Thanks 🙂


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