Friday, February 10, 2017

Flicker {things to think about}



Last Friday I had tea with a friend. She is a wonderful woman who always shows me great hospitality, with tea and delicious African treats, despite her limited funds. And yes, my friend is a refugee; she is from Somalia and she is a Muslim. As we drank, she shared with me how she is afraid she is going to be deported (even though she has a green card). She had laid awake at night all that week thinking about who she would leave her American-born children with when the government deported her back to a refugee camp in Africa. Unlikely? I think so, but try telling that to a woman who has seen war, famine, children die in her arms, numerous displacements, and government regimes who threaten safety. I just sat with her, assured her she had friends here, we would fight for her whatever might come her way, and to stop watching so much “news”!


On Saturday we invited our Afghan family (refugees and Muslim) to come into our neighborhood. I wanted them to know they are welcome all over the Denver area - even in the suburbs! They have two young children and we thought it might be fun to head to a local community center to go swimming. I think it might have been the first time they have ever been in a coed bathing situation (which allowed for plenty of conversation)! Let me tell you, friends, we had so much fun!! Though we come from worlds apart, we laughed, splashed, jumped, slid, and got water-logged for a good 3 hours.


But I left these two days feeling very inadequate in this current climate toward refugees/Muslims/outsiders. The question swirling in my head was “what can I DO?” It doesn’t feel enough to sit, listen and drink tea. It definitely doesn’t feel enough to take a family swimming.


On Saturday night, I saw on facebook a friend of mine had invited an Iraqi family to her house (yes, refugees and Muslim) for dinner. She later shared with me how weird she felt having them over to her very small house and not really knowing how to show them hospitality (actually, not being able to match the hospitality they’ve shown her!). They did a build-your-own-pizza dinner and after, had good, laughing conversation as they painted (my friend is an artist/painter). She opened her home and gave them what she had and who she is!




Then on Sunday, I got a call from a local man who happens to own numerous properties around town. He called, saying that an apartment had opened up and he wanted to be helpful somehow in this current {refugee} situation. In the past, he’s rented an apartment to a refugee family at a lower price (and if you know anything about the rent prices in Denver, that’s amazing!) with the understanding that once they get on their feet with a good job and able to pay their expenses themselves, they would move on and open the apartment up for another refugee family. In the process of our conversation, he made the comment that these feel like dark times and “we just want to be a flicker of light”. I laughed and told him I think that’s all any of us are. We do little acts - tea, swimming, pizza, painting, renting - and all those acts feel too small and too insignificant.


As I shared all these stories and thoughts with my husband the other day, he - the quintessential physics nerd (like he reads physics textbooks for fun!) - made the observation that flickers are how light actually works. As he pointed to a lightbulb he explained that this light is actually fluttering and unsteady, but because it’s happening so many times per second, most people cannot distinguish between the individual flickers. We just see it as constant light. In other words, get enough flickers together and we just see it as constant light.

To me, that’s a beautiful thought. We may feel our actions of love, welcoming, hospitality, and kindness are such small flickers, but together we produce LIGHT. So please don’t ever think that any act toward our refugee/Muslim/foreign neighbors is too small. Instead, flicker on my friends, flicker on!


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