We Have Room

 

refugee children, host border children, welcome the stranger, angels unaware,

All images thanks to wikimedia commons.

There may be no more powerful image in art, no more important message in scripture, than open arms. Welcoming the stranger is a basis of civilization, especially if that stranger is a refugee and always if that stranger is a child.

“You shall love the stranger, for you were once strangers in the land of Egypt.” Christianity, Deuteronomy 10: 19

“Charity—to be moved at the sight of the thirsty, the hungry, and the miserable and to offer relief to them out of pity—is the spring of virtue.” Jainsim/Kundakunda, Pancastikaya 137

“When the Holy One loves a man, He sends him a present in the shape of a poor man, so that he should perform some good deed to him, through the merit of which he may draw a cord of grace.” Judaism. Zohar, Genesis 104a

“One should give even from a scanty store to him who asks.” Buddhism. Dhammapada 224

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Christianity. Hebrews 13.1

“Serve Allah, and join not any partners with Him; and do good – to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (ye meet) and what your right hands possess: For Allah loveth not the arrogant, the vainglorious.”  Islam. Quran 4:36

“A traveler through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu.” Nelson Mandela, discussing the southern Africa tradition of Ubuntu

“See to it that whoever enters your house obtains something to eat, however little you may have. Such food will be a source of death to you if you withhold it.” Native American religions. A Winnebago Father’s Precepts

“`0 Ke aloha Ke Kuleana o kahi malihini. Love is the host in strange lands.”  Hawaiian saying

Relieve people in distress as speedily as you must release a fish from a dry rill [lest he die]. Deliver people from danger as quickly as you must free a sparrow from a tight noose. Be compassionate to orphans and relieve widows. Respect the old and help the poor. Taoism. Tract of the Quiet Way

 

child 2

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Whether scripture or statue inscription, we all know it’s easier to state our principles than adhere to them. I’m as weak as the next person in actually living up to what I believe.

I’ve vowed to keep politics out of this site, so I won’t be talking about lies fostered by divisive media or shockingly cruel attitudes toward refugees of any age. I’ll only say that it takes an extraordinary act of love to scrape together the coyote fees to send one’s child away in hopes of a safe haven. It takes inestimable courage for that child to walk through deserts, ride the tops of trains, and face down thieves along the way in hopes of real freedom.

My husband and I did some soul-searching. We talked to our kids. And we decided we cannot stand by while refugee children turn themselves in at the border only to be treated like criminals. We have room to host refugee children.

We applied to the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. We were told placements might be for a few months or they might be permanent. So we re-imagined our lives. Now that our kids are college students and young adults we thought we were done raising children, but we can go back to homemade popsicles and toys on the floor and books read aloud. We have our own problems with unemployment and a not-remotely-profitable small farm, but what we have can always stretch. There’s a place in our home and our hearts.

That doesn’t mean we have a greeting card view of this. These children will be traumatized, experience culture shock, and face learning a new language. We’ll have plenty of adapting to do as well.

Lately before falling asleep, I look ahead to rows of family pictures stretching into the future. Those pictures seem to hold two dark-haired faces newly dear to me, and eventually, more of their relatives joining them and becoming part of our extended family, on for generations, with babies in arms growing to stand tall, my husband and me fading into old age and beyond. It’s a good vision.

Right now it looks like that vision won’t come true. I just got an email from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. It said, in part, 

After exploring the nationwide LIRS foster care program network, I am sorry to share with you that LIRS does not have a foster care program in the geographic area that you are located. If at a future time an opportunity arises, we will reach out to you at that time.

I wrote back, asking if there was some way I could help set up a program in our area. Apparently the only option is applying for a grant through the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement, which I admit is probably past me. So now I’m applying to other agencies.

I only mention our quest in hopes that someone out there may qualify even if we don’t. Here are resources to investigate.

Office of Refugee Resettlement

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Bethany Refugee Care

Texas Interfaith Center
refugees, host border children,

 

About Laura Grace Weldon

Laura Grace Weldon is a writer and editor, perhaps due to an English professor's scathing denunciation of her writing as "curious verbiage." She's the author of "Free Range Learning," a handbook of natural learning and "Tending," a poetry collection. (lauragraceweldon.com) She's working on her next book, "Subversive Cooking" (subversivecooking.com). She lives on Bit of Earth Farm where she is a barely useful farm wench. Although she has deadlines to meet she often wanders from the computer to preach hope, snort with laughter, cook subversively, talk to chickens and cows, discuss life’s deeper meaning with her surprisingly tolerant offspring, sing to bees, hide in books, walk dogs, concoct tinctures, watch foreign films, and make messy art.
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22 Responses to We Have Room

  1. Bernie DeKoven says:

    There are many reasons I appreciate you. This post is one of the best of them.

    Like

  2. wandapeters1 says:

    While I commend your generosity, I would remind you that there are millions of poor and underfed children already living in the United States that could use your help.

    Like

  3. Amy Brain says:

    This is a lovely post. Thank you.

    Like

  4. You have a large heart, my friend. That, combined with your large brain, makes you an extremely valuable human being. Thanks for all you do.

    Like

  5. Lorie Januska says:

    A most beautiful post. I keep thinking that I want to help these children. You’ve been here and know I have the room but I couldn’t physically do what you are hoping to do. I can and do promise you that I will help in any way I can if you are able to make room for any child. Let us know if you find some way to help.

    Lorie

    Like

  6. njlinn says:

    ” It takes an extraordinary act of love to scrape together the coyote fees to send one’s child away in hopes of a safe haven. It takes inestimable courage for that child to walk through deserts, ride the tops of trains, and face down thieves along the way in hopes of real freedom.”

    Exactly. I wish that more people felt as you do, and felt it loudly. I wish it were less complicated to help. Beautiful.

    Like

  7. sarah says:

    Bless you for even trying. I wish I could too, but I live very far away. And it’s true that everywhere we look there are children in need. Animals in need. Adults in need. The climate in need. Sometimes our heart sees an opportunity for us to make a real difference in the best way we can – and sometimes our heart says, “this particular suffering is more than I can bear to witness, this I must stretch myself to help solve if I can” – but that doesn’t mean we don’t care about all the others in need. I hope so much you are able to find a way to help as you wish.

    Like

  8. lynna says:

    Your generosity is inspirational. My husband recently suggested this same idea to me and I wish it was a more stable time in our lives to honestly (and responsibly) be able to offer such a gift. I thank you for being such an amazing force in the world. <3

    Like

    • Over the years there’s been so much I’ve wanted to do, but real-life restraints kept me from doing it. Volunteering overseas after college didn’t happen. Adopting kids didn’t happen. Stopping fracking hasn’t (yet) happened. Maybe we’ll be approved to host refugee children, maybe not. We all do what we can when the time is right Lynna. That’s all.

      Like

  9. Kashi says:

    What a beautiful thing to do. I look forward to reading all about your experiences. I have small kids myself, and once they are bigger, I hope to foster too.
    What a great gift you are giving to some little people.

    Like

  10. Susan says:

    I wanted to let you know that I really appreciate how gracefully you respond to all comments – even ones that could very easily make a person defensive.

    I agree with what Sarah said above – there is so much need in the world and we cannot possibly individually address it all. So the best option is for each of us to respond to the things that we feel passionately about. That’s why it is perfect that we are all unique. If we don’t feel passionately about something but do it only out of obligation there is a high chance we won’t do it very well or with as much love and compassion.

    Thank you for sharing and inspiring others.

    Like

    • When we respond to what we feel most passionately about we’re more likely to remain committed and to do it with, as you say so beautifully, with love and compassion. I’m concerned about but not committed to many many causes. I’m entirely grateful that others do so much to advance those causes.

      Like

  11. HomeschoolDad says:

    Wow. Very admirable. Now I feel like a piece of selfish garbage!

    Like

  12. MaryEllen Prestage says:

    These little ones have traveled so far with most assuredly fear and terror in their heart, yet the love and hope of their families have somehow pushed them through. Bless those that haven’t made it and pray that some kind one has rescued them from harms way. May the kind and compassionate amongst us line their paths to a safer life than they were forced to leave. Thank you again Laura for your speaking up for these true little hero’s. We should have the good fortune to assist them in anyway.

    Like

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