Returning Humanity

I close my eyes and all I can see are two tiny faces. At first they were quiet and shy, but it wasn’t long before they gobbled up the attention they had been starving for. Their eyes squinted in laughter, their mouths wide open in smiles from ear to ear.

A rare moment of joy.

Another face flashes before me. It’s of a woman. Her eyes brimming with tears as she sat and talked with me, her spirit gushing in an overwhelming reaction to real human interaction. Craving to connect with any sort of community. She broke down, all because I acknowledged her humanity. Because I listened.

A rare moment of connection.

As I am seeing more of the needs around me, I see the obvious lack of resources and physical aid, but I see another facet of life that’s missing. The absence of joy and connections that comes from relationship.

If you go around asking people what their most treasured possessions are, or what they’d bring with them if they were to be stranded on a deserted island, a typical response would be a special person. Humans like to be with humans. Solitary confinement is never something sought after, it’s a form of imprisonment used for criminals. We’d go crazy without community, we’re whole with it.

God gave Adam Eve. People are wired for relationship.

I greatly value the friendships I left behind in order to cross over a massive body of water; they’re always on my heart and often on my Skype screen or iMessage. It’s amazing how I can still feel connected and loved and supported. Dear friends, I appreciate you more than you know.

But now, close your eyes and imagine yourself packing your belongings in a single backpack; you’re fleeing the country due to its dangerous state. You do so without knowing where you’re going or if you’ll ever return. The friends you’ve shared your whole life with have also fled. You don’t have a clue to their whereabouts, or if they’re even still alive.

Fast forward- you crossed the border and have safely escaped with your life. Now what?

Now, you are face to face with a thousand foot brick wall. You look up and all you can see is discouragement and fear. Every insecurity possible is thrown at you. These trials, this moment, is one in which people are clung to the most. However, every relationship you’ve ever had is suddenly gone.

The women that used to come over for Tuesday night cooking club, the mom’s you complained about your children’s teachers with, your children’s Saturday play-date friends, they’re nowhere in sight.

The men your husband would watch a soccer match with on a Friday night after a long week of tilling the fields, gone –along with the fields they spent years and years learning how to cultivate in order to grow the perfect cucumbers, and along with all possibility of using their skills in agricultural trade ever again.

No. The only jobs available are not to grown men, but to children. Only 13 year old girls have a chance to make money in the factories. Their tiny fingers work faster and their minds learn quicker; their stamina greater.

So many hardships. Moral obstacles you’d never dreamed you’d face…

Up until three months ago you lived in a park without a roof over your head. The 12×9 cement box you’re sleeping in now resulted from a display of mercy from an older woman who spotted your pregnant friend in the park and invited your two families to take refuge in her spare room used for storage. All eight of you in one room with a leaky ceiling.

Open your eyes. This isn’t a scenerio. This is real.

My moments of loneliness, of challenge and depression can’t even compare with the refugee families I’m getting to know. To thing about the imbalance I feel when I’m sucked of of community, and then to see with my own eyes an imbalance a million times worse. The dominant side weighed down with injustice, denied human rights, invisibility, loneliness, loss of dignity and pride in being unable to provide for their family’s basic needs.

The scale remains crooked only because there’s nobody empathizing with them, coming alongside to share their burdens, to help shoulder the weight and support them in their struggle.

As I’m beginning to learn what it looks like to walk the journey with these refugees, I see what I must strive to do. First and foremost, to see them as people and give them back their humanity. To look them in the eyes. To hold their hand and acknowledge their hardships but not dwell on them.

To be a Friend.
To Listen.
To bring Joy.
To bring Life.
To bring Balance.

It’s Something

Women and children keep flooding in. New ones. Raw from fleeing their homes for the sake of their lives. Children uprooted from normalcy, from childhood. Mothers uprooted from security, from community; alone. Father uprooted from years of stabilizing their families. Identities lost. Careers meaningless. Clueless. Jobless.

Fighting to maintain and preserve their humanity among the thousands upon thousands of all the other fish out of water.

Waiting in long lines with hopes that their names will be put on the list to get diapers, milk, and fruit. Traveling at the crack of dawn for 5 hours to eat a hot meal. Towing their tots into an overwhelmingly crowded room crawling with others seeking similar refuge.

Here they meet handfuls of volunteers whose sole intent is to smother them in kindness, love, acceptance, and attention. To make these kids giggle at the silly face or the finger poke in their ribs. To sing songs, play games, and tell stories o the ones who can’t even yet talk. To sit with women while they string limpid craft beads into complex designs- working fingers expressing their aching freedom.

My simple offerings seem mundane in context to their extreme hardships. It doesn’t seem like anything. But it’s something. And EVERY something matters.

Every smile counts.
Every cup of nescafe. Every lump of sugar. Every kiss on the cheek.

Giving in the ways I know how. Embracing the new women into our haven, filling every chair, making this a place of belonging. A place without worries. A constant in their routines.

Something certain, familiar, and welcoming. Where tears can be shared, but where joy can penetrate all. A little bit of heaven here on earth.