In November and December, the US Postal Service ran television ads depicting delivery of packages (lovely surprises, no doubt!) to a variety of rural and urban homes – all of them clean, bright, and appealing – using “Home for the Holidays” as background music. For the holidays you can’t beat home sweet home, right? Go back there (or at the very least have packages delivered there) and you will be happy. Convincing us to look backward is a great selling tool.
It’s hard to imagine what it would feel like if that green, grass of home we played in as children had been laid waste by war or multi-year drought or some other disaster; if, for whatever reason, our childhood homes had been made uninhabitable and we had been forced to flee for our lives. Someone whose homeland is under siege or has been destroyed by war or weather becomes a refugee. There are millions of refugees all over the world who can never go home again, so they struggle to make new homes. For some of them, refugee camps become home for years or decades. The fortunate ones have been allowed to resettle in host countries like the United States.
The media loves wreckage, so we frequently see images of ruined cities and tent compounds with no running water or sanitary facilities. It’s painful to watch and we can find no end to it, so it’s understandable when, after months and years of seeing images of desperate families running for their lives, we start to look away. We imagine we’ve seen all there is to see.
But there’s more to it than that.
There are resettled refugees, in this country and many others, who can show us the face of resilience and hope. These are not terrorists in the making, nor should they be made objects of our pity. They deserve our respect, and they can help teach us, if we’re willing to learn, how to look to the future instead of the past. They can teach us to look past our differences and see our shared humanity.
I recently listened to a refugee who had fled the genocide in Burma (Myanmar). He made it across the border into Malaysia, only to picked up for being in that country illegally. He spent a year in a Malaysian prison before being allowed to enter a refugee resettlement program, then spent another two years completing the vetting process that would allow him to enter the United States. (“My friend went to Norway,” he said. “He only had to wait six months.”) When asked about the hardships he endured, he dismissed them, saying, “I was lucky. I’m here. I’m safe. I have a good life. Many were not so lucky.” He has started his own business, and is now employing others, clearly proud of the fact he can say he isn’t taking away anyone else’s job.
There are many, many stories like this. Now, more than ever, we need to understand refugee resettlement in terms of what such resilient people can offer us, and stop letting politicians with their own agendas tell us they are a threat to our country. We need more courage and resilience in our midst – not less.
Twisted Road Publications is partnering with a new non-profit organization, Refugee Stories, Inc. to collect, transcribe and publish some of their stories. Since Twisted Road is a small press with limited resources, we are asking for help. We need resources to be able to:
– Offer small gifts to individuals who are willing to share their stories.
– Reimburse the interviewers from Refugee Stories for their time and help their organization get established.
– Cover up-front costs for editing, designing, and publishing the finished stories.
Your support will allow us to collect and publish the first volume of stories. Proceeds from the sale of books will help both Twisted Road Publications and Refugee Stories, Inc., continue this important work.
If you can help, please click here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/vaa5e-refugee-stories