Zoya and I got up super early for her to drive across Atlanta to take a class about volunteering with refugees. Shah and I originally got involved when one of our Facebook friends posted a little photo of some Afghani refugees he had visited and Shah volunteered to go help translate. Dari and Farsi are very similar.
He would take Zoya while I was working and the first or second time he went, I went to meet them after work. I was so excited that we had found this connection and that Zoya was surrounded by other cultures and I wrote this post about it.
The day my husband died, he’d spent hours trying to arrange for a refugee family to get a new hot water heater.
When he died, this connection with families all over the world was one thing I knew would not be lost. These people were not a project. They were our friends and they have stood by me and supported me through his death.
Shah had gotten his background check through World Relief so he could officially volunteer and I was always with him. It’s important to follow “rules,” take the classes, fill out the paperwork. It’s how these agencies attempt to keep people safe and qualify for more resources for refugee services.
Sure, it’s a free country, you can visit your neighbors in Clarkston anytime. But you can double your effect by coordinating your efforts with an agency.
Ok, I’ll step off that soapbox.
But I need to step up on another soapbox, for those of you who are scared of refugees. Coming to the US as a refugee is one of the hardest ways to get here. It takes years and years of waiting, with no idea which country you will end up in. Refugee status means you are here legally and that you’ve spent years in background checks and just waiting to even find out what country will accept you. You don’t pick your country. The UNHCR decides if you are a refugee after at least a year of interviews, and then after a longer time a country picks you. No one is trying to sneak into a country to do bad things through the slowest, most through, and most uncertain visa process.
Stepping off soapbox number two.
There is a consistent joy that comes from interacting with people from Clarkston. The poverty in some complexes is shocking. Entrapeneur spirit of many is evident by all the little shops with names I can only begin to pronounce. The life is slower and yet we’ve seen so many friends improve their lives drastically in the last two years.
Yesterday, the teacher pointed out that efficiency is an American value that many other cultures don’t have. I laughed. I learned this in my own marriage. The fastest way isn’t always the best.
And as I laid in bed afterwards, remembering all the weekends he just wanted to nap and I wanted to do something, I realize the one thing I wish we’d done more of is nap and slowly drink tea.
No matter what I give, I get so much more from my life spent with these other cultures. They teach me to slow down and be, with no agenda other than enjoying the hours with a cup of tea and a little conversation.