Case in point, visiting an Iraqi refugee family today. It brought so much joy to my heart. Literally even walking around the apartment complex to get to their house, I smelled Africa- which is hard to describe, but if you've smelled Africa, and you smell it somewhere else, you know it...somewhat of a burning trash/cooking food/earthy smell...if you had to put a name on it. I also saw someone carrying a trash can on their head to a dumpster, which is also a flashback to Africa (not so much the trash can as someone carrying something on their head).
But really, it was being welcomed into a home of a family I had never met before. Sitting on a couch in their living room, visiting with them, laughing, asking questions. They always offer you a drink and or food, really, it's not an option, it's them offering their heart to you in hospitality. That's something that I saw worldwide, and wanted to bring back to America with me.
(I can't even count how many sodas we had in Africa...but I do enjoy Fanta!)
(Flashbacks to beautiful Africa)
(Also, I think the number of cups of tea that I consumed overseas far outweighs my consumption of soda. Any time you went into anyone's house, you were given tea, and multiple cups. Oh, you're full? Have some more tea!)
(Smiling faces of beautiful kids around the world. Tonight brought me this joy once more.)
That sense of open generosity. Open hands. Treating every person that walks through your door with respect and love, offering your heart to them.
So for about an hour and a half today after work, I got to "go overseas" right here in Tucson. I was able to sit in a living room with a family, hear another language being spoken, pick up on hand gestures like a grand charades player, see Al Jazeera on the TV, and be honored with great generosity and hospitality by people that I didn't even know.
It was such a blessing to my heart. I absolutely love moments like those, and it makes my heart excited to step across cultural boundaries within my own town.
I heard from an apartment manager today the difficulties she faces in looking after all of her tenants, and the things that she wishes she could do for the families there. I saw her express deep appreciation for all the help that she receives from people coming in to play with the refugee kids, who build relationships with the families.
There is such a great need, right on our doorstep. Our own neighbors are looking for love. It's right there, but how often do we step across that divide?
I know that I want to do it more often. If you haven't ever met a refugee family, or kid, I would highly encourage you to try and do so. See if your community has a refugee program. You would probably be surprised at what you find.
But it's meaningful connections like that that mean so much. Not only to the people that receive it, but to us as well.
We are blessed to be a blessing.