Lessons from the “Strangers” among Us

You may have read my post entitled “Instead”published on August 8.  My “kindred spirit” Barbara Sibley who lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, responded to that post by com- menting that “hanging out” with members of an immigrant community near her has shown her the “outworking of the concept of ‘instead.'” I asked her to share her experiences with the refugees she has befriended and worked with. Here’s her own version of “Instead.”

Let me say right off the bat that I am a stranger. While, by all outward appearances, I look like a “typical” American woman—white, educated, and married with grown children—I am convinced that what is currently going on in America is anything but typical. In the past several years, the divisiveness, chaos, and stunning lack of civility have grown to fever pitch, targeting, among others, the immigrant and refugee population. As this cultural and political debasement continues to unfold, I feel deeply saddened and estranged. What in the world is happening?

Well, I discovered an answer to that question in a nearby apartment complex where immigrant and refugee families live. Since I work in a writing center at our local community college, I figured that I could “help out” with volunteer tutoring at evening homework sessions for high school and college students held at the apartment’s community center. Plus, this past summer, I joined a team of volunteers to assist teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) classes to the women residents.

In this setting, I thought I would be the teacher; instead I actually became a learner. I learned that I can choose to be anxious about the day-to-day political intrigues which so easily entangle my soul, or, instead, I can consider the experience of  immigrant families who arrive in America seeking refuge or asylum after their own hellish experiences with repressive, dangerous governments. In addition, many refugees have already lived for years—yes, years!—in abysmal camps, waiting to leave. These same refugees arrive here and become marginalized and in many cases demonized.They are regard-  ed as undeserving of respect or con-  sideration—just the type of folks Jesus would hang out with. What’s more, these “strangers” among us are exactly the ones who can make America great again; the vast majority of them bless the United States and “kiss the ground” of this country as they consider where they came from and the opportunities before them, despite all the obstacles in their way.

My time among these individuals is a spiritually charged antidote to the upheaval in America which swirls and threatens to engulf me. This vulnerable population, so fragile and yet so filled with hope, brings me face to face with Paul’s admonition: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21), a “good” that shows itself plainly with a shared hug, a broad smile, or a new understanding of an English phrase.

So yes, I am still a stranger, but one who is joyfully welcomed in simplicity and trust among a community of new immigrant and refugee friends. Through them, I see Jesus beckoning, and I am enfolded in His arms. Here, I too, am welcomed home.

This entry was posted in Living as Apprentices and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Lessons from the “Strangers” among Us

  1. Pingback: “Nosey Neighbors” | Living as Apprentices

  2. Posted by Stone Soup on Sunday, April 24, 2016

    At this time when people are looking suspiciously at people who are different, I want to thank strangers for carrying to this point in my life. I am blessed with the things around me but would not be here or have these things but for people that I don’t know who came to my rescue and then disappeared. I am third generation full-blooded Armenian, and Armenians hold a grudge against Moslem Turks because of the genocide led by Talit Pasha at the turn of the century. But a Moslem Turkish gendarme saved my aunts and grandmother by warning them of soldiers coming to look for them. My grandmother’s Turkish housekeeper hid them below the outhouse when soldiers came to her asking about them. A Moslem Turkish General protected my Grandmother as his servant as she went with him to the Turkish border by Aleppo to search for her children. A Moslem Syrian merchant picked up my aunt as she begged for help and carried her off to his place in Mosul and raised her as a daughter until my grandmother found her. An Moslem Iraqi judge hear my Grandmother’s case and gave my Aunt back to her for her to find her way , as many refuges did , through Europe, to America. I would not be here if any of these and other strangers had not risked their lives to help my ancestors.In America , I would not be here if an Catholic Brother did not climb into the rubble of our tornado –wrecked 3 decker to pull me out. There are people from all walks of life who carried me to this point. An old lady came out of Friendlies yelling at some hoodlums to leave me alone as they were beating me up when I was young. In college , A black lady banged her umbrella on the bus roof and yelling “let the Man out “ at the corner of Longwood and Huntington Ave in Boston after the bus doors closed on me and it began moving. My daughter might not be here if a rich man had not dived off the dock by the Yacht club to pull her out of the water in Manchester, MA. There are other things that I also witnessed: I saw a woman in a wheelchair, wheel up to a fence in a parking lot on a cold winter day to allow a young African-American boy stand on her legs to unhook him from the cyclone fence that pinned him when he slipped while horsing around with his buddy. Twice, when I was tired at the end of a long workday when my wife was laid up , I came home to find help from unknown neighbors: Once there was a casserole on my porch and other time I found my animals tucked away in the barn. I never complained to anyone, but my “nosey neighbors” reached out. I still don’t know who did those things. Certainly not the government casserole agency.

    Thank-you GOD for nosey neighbors, and strangers who love YOU regardless of their backgrounds. Thank-you did not wait for an agency to help or ask “:who me?” but just did what was needed

  3. Pingback: Bags Full ohttps://livingasapprentices.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.phpf Hope | Living as Apprentices

  4. Rich Herbig says:

    Thank you for this post! Barbara, what an encouragement you are to folks down in North Carolina and here as well! Thank you for sharing what you have learned and how you have changed as you have walked with these new friends! – Leslie

  5. Anna Sibley says:

    That’s my amazing mom, who has taught me love and compassion in how she has raised me and how she treats others.

    • Anna,
      Thanks for your comment! I feel as if I know you because your amazing mom talks about you all the time. I agree with your description. Your mom is a true Christ-follower and apprentice of Jesus. I am so blessed to be her friend.

Comments are closed.