Update on the Refugees in My Sphere

students

Students from Nepal, Congo and Somalia


An update on the refugees in my sphere….

The numbers in ESL class are way down. This time last year, we had upwards of 30 students. Now we are down to a steady 8-10. We rarely get a new student, unless it’s someone who was resettled in another city and, after a while, moved here.

A young woman from Iraq came here from Syracuse to be closer to family. She started class yesterday.

One of our Somali students who arrived late saw her sitting across the room and said, “NICE TO MEET YOU. WELCOME to AMERICA!” so clearly and warmly we applauded.

The Executive Order (travel ban) has been hard on those waiting for family members, but they are all pros at carrying on. They’ve had to learn to be. It’s only when our mental health person comes to speak about dealing with the stress of resettlement, and translators are present, that we catch a glimpse into some our students’ concerns and anxieties. I think they all feel safe in the class and free to speak their minds. I’m happy for that.

After that, we carry on with our English studies.

My mom both credited and faulted my tendency to find a bright side to everything. In that spirit, let me now say that ONE UPSIDE of the current situation is that because of the flow of refugees being cut off, current students are permitted to stay in class longer than the 5 months they generally get. Also, we picked up several new volunteers after the first executive order, people just wanting to do something to help. Between the extended learning time and the improved student:teacher ratio, language skills are growing in leaps and bounds! A few students who were at the very lowest level when they came in are comprehending and communicating well beyond our initial expectations. We are daily surprised.

Pressing on, gently.

Posted in compassion, Memorial Day, refugees | 4 Comments

#MeToo

WHEN MOM WAS 90, still sharp as a tack, she told me a story of unwanted advances toward her when she was a teenager. She got away. Her telling of it was prompted by a big story in the headlines at the time. We’d been discussing it.

I then told Mom my story about the brother of a friend. My friend’s brother was 19. I was 12. I got away. I ran faster than he did, plus he was stark naked, so once I was outside the house he’d called me into, I was in the clear. To this day, though, I dread to think what might have happened if he’d been standing between me and the door. (Sorry to plant an unpleasant graphic in your head, friends, but I have a point and I will get to it.)

I ran home and sat on our front steps. I sat there a long time, thinking about what had just happened.

“Why didn’t you ever tell me?” Mom asked.

I had to think a bit. I had to put myself back on those front steps.

“I thought I’d get in trouble for it somehow.”

Mom understood.

LATELY, I HEAR PEOPLE QUESTIONING the trustworthiness, both of decades-old memories and those who, having kept silent so long, suddenly feel the need to speak up. To those people I would like to say, “You’ve been very fortunate indeed, not to have such a story in your life.”

Mom remembered quite clearly what happened 75 years earlier.
I remembered quite clearly what happened 50 years earlier.

There came a moment when it was time to tell. There was permission and an open door. I was glad the two of us had the conversation.

I know Vietnam vets who experienced things nobody should ever have to experience and still can’t talk about it. If they ever suddenly feel the need, I won’t say, “Why bother with all that now?”

Just sayin.’

 

Posted in compassion, courage | 3 Comments

Reading on the Porch in the Evening

Click for link to Love Big, Be Well
ON THE PORCH tonight,
I read until I lost the light,
angling the book in different ways
to get in one more page,
to reach for the end of another chapter.

I’ll finish the book tomorrow.

I could go inside
and finish it now.
I could sit by the good lamp.
But a warm night
this late in October
will surely be one of the last.
I’m holding on to it,
listening to sounds
of a day closing down –
evening birdsong,
squirrels chasing each other,
the twilight bark.

I saw a snowflake in the 10-day forecast.


Notes:
“Love Big, Be Well: Letters to a Small-Town Church” by Winn Collier is the book I didn’t go inside to finish reading because, truth be told, I didn’t want it to end. 

Posted in poems, Uncategorized | 5 Comments