After waiting more than 20 years to follow a dream, I signed up as a volunteer with a local service agency to work with their refugee resettlement program!! And so after an interview, a background check, another meeting, and weeks of waiting, yesterday it happened. I met my assigned family!
Walking into their apartment and meeting them for the first time was admittedly a bit awkward for all of us, but it didn't take long to get over that. I found them to be a wonderful couple, so happy to be here. For their own safety it would not be wise to post pictures or even name their county. But they left "a place with no dreams," a place plagued with bombings, shootings, kidnappings, changing political factions, and death threats. They could only say goodbye to their family and a few of their very closest friends, because if word got out they left for America, their remaining family members would be in danger.
They arrived 3 weeks ago with 7 bags, including food and a few pans, as they were worried they might not be able to find what they needed here.
The case worker advised that it is customary to be served tea and food and that I should expect it. This is a good thing, no?! Imagine my confusion when I was greeted with smiles, open hearts, a giant glass of orange drink, and chocolate fudge cake at 10:30 in the morning. 90 minutes later I was getting ready to leave when they implored me to stay - the plan was for lunch! "Lunch" meant a "simple" spread complete with halal roasted chicken; a rice dish; a vegetable dish with shredded beets, lemon, lettuce, carrots, and an olive; homemade chicken soup; a baguette of bread each; and no drink. Homemade pickled beets were brought out after the meal. The dishes and portions were handed to me and I watched carefully, wondering if I was going to have to eat the rice with my fingers. But - glory hallelujah! - spoons were given out! There was no serving knife or utensil for the chicken, however, and my host tore off a piece with his fingers and handed it to me.
They thought I hardly ate anything, but actually I was so full I couldn't swallow another bite. I ate twice as much as I normally would so as not to offend them. I couldn't eat the rest of the day. Or night. And I wasn't eager to jump into breakfast.
I am returning to their apartment tomorrow morning to meet the children, who were in school when I came yesterday. And I am to stay for lunch! (Perhaps I should stop eating now?!)
New friends, new opportunities, goodwill, spoons...treasures, indeed.