I am still stumbling along with my computer woes (I am great with computers … until they don’t work. haha), but also something else.
I have struggled with how to proceed in a world where ‘politics’ have taken over. I, like so many people, hate politics and was not really involved. Until now.
Don’t worry. I will not be urging you to call your representative or discussing what issues I am for or against. In fact, I wasn’t planning to say a thing. But this morning, in the space of a few minutes, I read this post and this article. Completely unrelated sources, but they appeared in front of me at the same time.
Condensed version for both pieces: Remaining silent also makes a statement. And this is not a statement I want to make.
Politics Have Become Personal
I will share just this one story.
Last year I volunteered with my local branch of World Relief, an organization that helps refugees get settled, learn English, and find employment. I was matched with my new friend, a 30-year old mom from Ethiopia in January. She sought help with English.
I was told that she didn’t know any English and no translator was readily available. I used to tutor in college, and I love English, but I admit … this was a bit daunting.
A Friendship Is Born
I meet with my new friend several days a week. She attends immersion school to learn English, then we practice speaking in the afternoon.
Week 1: Simple words “arm,” “leg,” “cat,” “dog” and so on.
Week 2: We are speaking in small sentences.
Week 3: We are talking about our interests, favorite foods. The transformation has been amazing.
I have asked her to teach me her language. I keep a notebook “cheat sheet” in my purse. I am learning her language, but suffice to say that my transformation has not been as amazing. 😀
Each visit, she offers me tea or, if I have time to stay, a full feast. She loves to cook. I do not. But I do love to eat. We talk about our mutual love of beads and other art.
My friend lived in a refugee camp for 10 years. Years. That is 1/3 of her life thus far. I think back to me at 30, all that I had accomplished (degree, house, etc.) and what a contrast. She misses her home, her friends, her family, and everything she left behind.
Yet, every day she greets me with a huge smile and says that she had a great day at school. She is eager to learn English as quickly as possible to start working as quickly as possible.
You Don’t Choose To Be A Refugee
People can’t say they are a refugee just because they want to leave their country (most don’t — this involves leaving your home, possessions, family and friends). You have to apply and be certified as a refugee. There are many requirements. Basically: that your life is in danger. Once you are officially certified as a refugee, then the in-depth vetting starts. More about that here and here.
My friend went through incredible qualification/examination and is now a legal US resident.
Yes, I was inspired to volunteer with World Relief because of the current political climate. I didn’t know a thing about refugees in my community and World Relief has been here for many years.
Looking back several years(!), my summer jobs as a teenager involved working with migrant workers in the childcare centers and in the orchards. Working with migrant families struggling to make a living. That most certainly was not a ‘political action’ for me at the time. It IS the core of who I am, though; someone who believes in humanity and standing with the vulnerable.
Back to Beads
This blog is about my glass, my beads, and my art. So I will wrap up this post talking about beads. My friend and I share a love of beads. I noticed the beadwork she was wearing, and we talked in our short sentences, about how much we love beads and all of the different shapes, sizes, and colors.
I have been working with beads ever since I can remember. Long before I started making beads. I have years and years of collecting beads. I brought some beads for our visit yesterday – all shapes and sizes, including some I had made.
I also brought along this keychain I have. I purchased it many years ago from a refugee. My friend instantly recognized it as Massai beadwork. Honestly, it has been so long, that I forgot the origin.
It doesn’t matter, though. The important part for me is the bead-art-people connection. The key to understanding?