In my own personal experience, I've found the first ones to reach out to help... are those who can't. They are the ones who are too far away or obviously unable in some way. I'd like to just point a finger in my cynicism and condemn "others", but I have to be honest and admit I've even found myself doing this too. It's easy to say, "I wish I could help," or "I'd be there for you if I was closer," but would I really be? Am I the first one racing to the doorstep when I actually am in a place to help? I'd like to say "yes," but reality is closer to... sometimes. I could do better.
Refugees... a crisis of words?
This thought of empty words seems to be stuck at the front of my mind lately as I see so many people posting about the "refugees" stuck in airports or awful camps around the world. All the finger pointing about loving through government decree is on the surface as a loving plea. We must start by owning our own individual action plan as well. Are we just posting on FB about making "tables longer instead of our fences higher" have or are actually welcoming refugees or anyone for that matter into our homes? Do we legitimately love on anyone who is different? Are they projects or do we pursue lifelong connections?
Do we hear a foreign accent and find ourselves drawn to the person/family or is our knee jerk reaction to be polite and get away as fast as possible? Do we invite them to our kids' birthday parties and share holidays with their families? Do we take the table next to them and engage them in a conversation at McDonald's or choose a seat across the room and join the crowds to stare?
Stared at community
Being a reluctant card carrier of the "glass house" community, it's not a great position to hold. We're not often engaged or invited to the table perhaps because most people fear what they don't know. I too, have bombed with my words to families and acted incredibly politically incorrect at times, but the only way to do better and learn is to keep trying. "I don't know what to say," is a legit challenge but not an excuse. We can all affirm it is hard to engage someone who is so decidedly different from us, but we must agree it shouldn't paralyze us from loving altogether.
There are too many who are hurting and lost to let that be our "get out of engaging" card. There are less "in your face" approaches to reaching out. We cannot live in our safety bubbles with our two comfortable friends throwing rocks "at everyone else" for not loving, when we refuse to even say hello to the throngs of new, different or hurting people we pass at church or on the street.
With our moves across this country, we've been strangers in a new land (on an obviously smaller scale) and have at times felt the lack of love as an outsider. There have been times where MN and SC seem like different countries. It's hard, friends, not to be disappointed with those around us who are taking up the torch for immigrants, but wouldn't cross the street to offer a handshake or even a smile.
Refugees... open hearts and homes?
Our country is a place of vast immigration. We have people from all parts of the world within our borders right now. I'm only a few generations away from my ancestors who immigrated to this country. Of those of us who are burdened over the current situation, how many legitimate friends do we have of different ethnicities? Are we involved with the current settlements of refugee populations? How about adopted or foster kids who are displaced from their homes? Disabled friends? Do our facebook feeds, churches, or family gatherings reflect the melting pot we live in or a family reunion?
It's easier to point the finger at others for not loving, but what are we doing with current "outsiders"? Do we see a women wearing a hijab and invite her and her kids into our homes or even to church? At the very least do we extend a warm smile or exchange pleasantries at the grocery store? Are we chomping at the bit to share a meal with them? Do we engage in conversation and offer assistance as we would anyone else who was new to our area?
Please, dear friends, regardless of where you stand with building a wall or allowing refugees please note this isn't new. There have been bans from specific people groups throughout history. The last one was as close as the last presidency. There have been walls built and blessed by God (Nehemiah) and there have been walls felled by the same God (Soviet Union).
He is sovereign in both.
He is also above both.
Any government isn't able to thwart any plans of God.
We should be loving the people within our walls well and reaching out to those outside our walls. There's nothing wrong with letting your voice be heard among friends or even social media in regards to public policy, but we must make sure that voice has hands and feet as well. We must first be the difference we're asking others to be.
May the wall be a symbol in our hearts for us to be a bridge for those who are different and isolated in our communities. May we not just post pictures of bridges, but fail to create and cross them ourselves. As Christ followers we are called to fight and defend those who are abused and oppressed near and far. Don't stop fighting for the majority of refugees who really just want to live in their homelands free of war and violence. This is a multifaceted issue. May we see the bigger picture and make a difference with our own actions toward our neighbors here rather than just words for those afar.
Call to Action
- Reach out to someone from another country today. They are all around. My family is in MN and we feel the loss of family around, but how much more for those whose family is too far to visit or spend holidays with. When we start looking is often when we start seeing.
- Think beyond immigrants to those who are just lonely, lost and marginalized in our society and reach out to them as well. (special needs families are among this group).
- Make a point to smile bigger, engage in a conversation, or show an act of kindness to All those around you. Make your mission to break stereotypes today.