Refugee agencies across our country are closing. Support systems are failing. You sometimes hear people blaming refugees for the very evils they are trying to flee. And just as the number of refugees worldwide is increasing (70 million and counting, fully 1% of the world’s population), powerful voices in our own government are openly saying they hope to never see another refugee set foot on American soil. They don’t want to hear about refugees succeeding.
But once again, look at our faces. Joy is no less real. Celebration is our secret weapon. We celebrate the daily experience of seeing first-hand the resilience of refugees and the gifts they bring to our community. We celebrate a mission that is needed now more than ever. We celebrate a model of job training that is increasingly relevant. And we celebrate you, a growing team of partners who love and support what we are doing.
We’ve reached the heart of the giving season and like many of you, I sometimes have my laptop open while I’m finishing off the evening with Stephen Colbert, surfing for a gift that might have a special meaning. There are some cool things out there. Did you know that Boney M once put out a Christmas album? I wonder if I can locate an LP. And Amazon even has a Nic Cage throw pillow. In suede! Wow.
But if you’re looking for a meaningful gift, I do want to remind you about #teamgranola.
I first left home as a 6-year-old to attend boarding school at a beach town in Vietnam. I have memories of things like tear gas. I have one memory in particular of all of us kids from my boarding school standing outside where the breeze was strongest, against our chain-link fence, looking out at the brilliant ocean which was like a sheet of tinfoil in the sun, crying because of the gas. I distinctly remember NOT being sad—I remember it as an adventure. Sure it hurt. It was also very exciting.
We are living in a time when national divisions appear to be everywhere. Yet all of us want similar things: love, security, a roof over our heads, good things for our children. We really do speak with "one heart and one voice" when it comes to our most basic hopes and dreams. As Lincoln acknowledged, it is possible to find common ground around gratitude.
My family was laughing at me last night at dinner. I was telling them about the first ever roasting of Beautiful Day Ethiopian Yirgacheffe heirloom coffee. Maybe I was a little enthusiastic. Maybe I was acting as if roasting coffee was something new under the sun.
“We knew it would come to this,” they said.
Oh well. You can pick your friends.