This is why I love my Presbyterian Church. Coming together and literally and figuratively embracing each other! (Not that we are perfect! We’ve still got a LOT to learn).
During my Young Adult Volunteer year of service, I also have seen the bridges being built, being mended, being crossed. I have also realized that there are bridges that are yet to be built, bridges that may remain broken. Yet there is a beauty in at least trying to build these bridges back. In the wake of is the tragic events of even just the past couple of weeks with Kayla Mueller’s death in Syria and Yusor Mohammad, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha and Deah Shaddy Barakat’s deaths in North Carolina, I have been alarmed by the ways in which we still desperately need to need to start building bridges. As challenging as this work may be at times, even just acknowledging that a lack of a bridge exists and start figuring how to start building bridges between cultures, ethnicities, religions, backgrounds, upbringings, socioeconomic statuses, etc. is a start!
We all have our biases but we also all have our brains to get beyond these biases.
As the quote on the Celestial Seasonings tea has taught me, “The river may be wide, but it can be crossed.” (Cote d’Ivoire). (By the way, I have this posted on my door to remind me of the times in which it’s easier just to assume and not step out and communicate).
#yavprogram #haveyouhuggedapresbyteriantoday? #loveyourneighbor #hugs #hugitout
P.S. Rick Ufford-Chase – aka: the dude to the left seen hugging above – was the leader of our 2014-2015 Young Adult Volunteer Orientation back in late August at Stony Point Conference & Retreat Center! Also, he used to live in the house that our current Tucson YAV site coordinator, Brandon lives.
Tonight, after I presented our monthly volunteer training entitled “Refugee 101”, the Executive Director, Barbara at Iskashitaa Refugee Network said to me that no matter of what type of volunteer commitment an individual decides to make with our organization, they can at least step away from this interactive training with more sensitivity towards the refugee and asylum seeking population not only in Tucson but also in the world. Often times, I get caught up in the every day details as a Volunteer Coordinator at Iskashitaa that I forget one of our main missions is to bring education and awareness and sensitivity and understanding about refugees and asylum seekers to the Tucson community. Who is a refugee? What is the difference between refugee and an asylum seeker? What is their journey like? What are the challenges they face? What are the skills and gifts they can bring to their new community?
Often feeling helpless that I cannot do more or that I am not efficient/quick enough to get volunteers connected to one another! Barbara reminded me, “If nothing, the people who have attended ‘Refugee 101’ have become more sensitive to a group of people that they would have mindlessly walked by in the grocery store before.”
At the end of the day, perhaps if we just asked each other -while standing in the check-out line at the grocery store what the Arabic, English, Spanish, Swahili or Kirundi word for tomato was – perhaps we’d gain a little more respect for one another and realize that as weird and foreign and different we all initially seem from one another…..we all have a word for tomato in our language. :)
Check out the “Hugs that Change the World” article in Presbyterian Today.