June 20 is an international observance day dedicated to raising awareness of the situation of refugees throughout the world.
This month we're excited to share a blog post written by one of our fellow non-profit partners, Stephanie Giddens of Vickery Trading Co. (VTC). Based out of Dallas, VTC’s mission is to equip refugee women for long-term success through vocational training, personal development and fair wages.
Our pastor recently shared some wisdom that’s worth sharing: “Inexperience doesn’t excuse inaction.” Inaction due to inexperience. I feel like that’s how most of our country responds to immigrants – especially refugees. We don’t have any frame of reference for their language, clothing, customs or food. Most of us haven’t experienced living in a war zone or through life-threatening persecution. We don’t know what it’s like to lose almost everything - including loved ones - and be thrown into an unfamiliar country and expected to survive. Sounds a bit like American reality TV shows, but in the real-life drama of a refugee, the season doesn’t end and there’s certainly not a cash prize at the end.
Our unfamiliarity makes us afraid to step out of our safe zone and get involved. What if they’re dangerous? What if they take jobs from us? What if I hate their food? What if I can’t communicate with them? What if I don’t have enough time? What if they get me and my kids sick? The list is endless and I’ve heard all of them. While they’re understandable concerns…
What if you’re WRONG?
What if they’re running from danger and desperately need safety to survive? What if they provide a needed service in your community and have four little mouths to feed at home? What if you love their food? What if you don’t need to speak the same language to begin a friendship? What if the time you give is more valuable than anything you gave up? What if they’re getting good healthcare for their families for the first time ever?
For the vast majority of us, refugees are an unfamiliar context. I would argue that since it’s unfamiliar for almost everyone, and since refugees are a very present reality in many places across our country, no one gets to play the unfamiliarity card. No one gets to run because of inexperience because in most cases, none of us have it.
Inexperience can’t be the basis of our decision to act. I didn’t know how to sew when I started Vickery Trading. I don’t speak Farsi or Arabic or French or Swahili or Urdu or Rohingya or any of the other languages of my Associates. I had no experience with Middle Eastern or Southeast Asian people groups. I knew very little about Islam…or really even what Christianity looks like outside of the US.
Good thing experience wasn’t the basis of my decision to help. For many of us, the Golden Rule is pretty common ground, “Treat others as you want to be treated.” I pray that if I were ever in a situation like the refugees that I work with that someone would hold out a helping hand to my helplessness.
For more information on how to get involved with local refugee relief organizations, check out the Vietnamese Boat People Partner Spotlights!