The world is spinning – seemingly out of control. Divergence not diversity is the theme. Lies trump truth. Pain and hurt, shame and guilt abound. Vile comments, pictures, and behaviors sear our souls. Violence and human misery cause our hearts to despair. How can we live in these times? What can we do to share the mind of Christ in 2018? The word that floated into my mind as I pondered how to live faithfully in today’s world is HARMONY. In this post, guest blogger, Joy Zomer writes about finding common ground (and forging harmony) with a stranger.
It started with a text. “Is your car still available?” The response, “Yes,” gave little information and no direction. I pushed onward. “Is there a specific reason you are selling?”
The response, “No need” offered plausible cause that it was potentially a second car for a family or maybe had been bought and not wanted. Yet the advertisement on our local for sale notice board website was similarly cryptic:
Initially, I had skipped over the ad, thinking it a scam. There wasn’t enough information, nor was there any of the “fluff” that one might say to encourage my interest. Phrases like “have all repair records” or “great economical car” or even, “big trunk space” would have helped. Instead, there were 9 words, only nine words to get me hooked. And so, after sending the text and getting very little information, I wasn’t too sure about a plan to purchase this car. I sat on the idea for a couple of days and checked out a few others.
Then, I received a text back, “You want?” It was one of those moments where you wonder if maybe this was a challenge of language, so I thought about it again and responded, “Have appointment in GR today, can you meet?”
Within a few minutes the response, short and to the point, came back, “Text me when free and I give address.”
The meeting was on. My daughter went with me in case we actually decided to purchase the car. We talked on the way there about potential scenarios. If the owner seemed sketchy, we’d leave without getting out of the car. If the car had rust, we wouldn’t purchase it. We were going to check under the hood to see about the cleanliness of the engine. She was going to check out the sunroof for leaks. I was to get on the ground and look under the car for rust, cracked underbody, etc.
When we arrived at the apartment complex, we saw a man standing on the sidewalk. He had a phone, and he was awkwardly turned away. He was olive – skinned, dark hair and dark eyes, medium height and stocky. His clothing was dark-colored, all black tones, black leather jacket. When we got out of our car to greet him and shake hands, he seemed uncomfortable. “My name’s Joy,” I said as we shook.
“My name Barish,” he responded. He quickly pointed to the car. “Here, here it is”, he said. We moved to the car, which was running, and I sat inside. The heat was on full blast as was the radio. He stood at the car door and emphasized, “Good heat, very warm,” as we unzipped our jackets. “Good sound too,” he finished off as we turned down the radio.
After driving the car around the parking lot, we decided the vehicle was sound and in excellent condition. We didn’t understand Barish, but the car seemed to be a car for a good price AND a solid purchase. I got out and walked over to Barish. “Why do you want to sell this car, Barish? It seems like a very nice car.”
With some hesitation, Barish met my eyes and said, “The car for my brother and wife come to America. But, they no coming now. We go Canada instead.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I responded. “Have you been here long?”
“I wait over year,” Barish said, “but I go them now. Things not so ok here. ”
“Where are you from?”
Again, with some seconds of pause, Barish said, “Baghdad.” My response of, “Oh Wow. That was a very long journey” was met with a first sign of warmth. “Yes.”
My heart was in my throat as I continued the conversation one last time. “I’m sorry that you don’t feel welcome here. I think this isn’t okay.” I looked into his eyes as I spoke these words. He didn’t speak, but he met my eyes. He signed over the title, and I gave him the cash.
He pointed to a big pile of household wares, furniture, white plastic bags of clothing in one of the parking spots. “They coming. We move now.” A teenage boy was wandering towards the piles, seeming to look at the items. “No,” Barish yelled. “Not free!”
I looked at Barish and held out my hand. “Thank you, Barish. I hope Canada will be a good place to be,” I said. We shook hands. Barish wiped his hand on his pants. He waved as my daughter and I drove away, each in their own vehicle.
My experience with Barish put a name to the hundreds of thousands of refugees who struggle across our world. It led me to think about his story and try to understand what might have brought him to Grand Rapids, Michigan looking for a better life. Statistics report that the civil war of 2006-2007 in Iraq led to over 1 million people fleeing for other countries. Add to that a U.N. report that says over 3.3 million has been displaced since 2014. The Refugee Resettlement Watch cites that the US State Department alone admitted over 110,000 Iraqi refugees from 2003 to 2014.
Two Different Worlds
I can easily imagine that Barish came to America with a hope for a home. As an American, I would like to say that I know how to welcome Barish and others who come to America looking for safety. I would like to believe that I know how to make someone feel comfortable. I would like to imagine that my country would provide a future. However, I have a troubling voice in the back of my mind which tells me it may not be so easy. Barish and I interacted in a way that made me feel comfortable for sure, but I am not sure any of it felt safe for him. My societal norms were present, but I’m not confident his were. In the end, we come from two very different places.
In the end, we come from two very different places, and we necessarily came to common ground -over a car. It leaves me with the greater question of how my world can be a more loving, open place, offering hope and commonalities at a basic human level. To answer it, I think I simply start by asking the question.
Welcome to my blog about living as apprentices of Jesus! I am passionate about spiritual transformation and about helping others become like Jesus for the sake of others.
One of my favorite quotes is: "Whatever job we get and whatever task we are assigned can serve as a container for grace" (Eugene Peterson in "Practical Resurrection"). I pray that the words and sentences on this blog may also serve as "containers of grace" for its readers.
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