We took the picture in our kitchen—our place of hard work and joy. Each face unique, a story behind each pair of eyes. Since the dawn of time, people have fashioned stories to give meaning to their experiences, to explain the unknown, and to keep the darkness at bay. Stories are part of our humanity – each of us so much more than the sum of our individual experiences. They remind us of all we share in common. And for this reason, especially now, they need to be told!
Before that day, I had only read - through secondary sources - the stories and perspectives of refugees… However, to be able to witness firsthand the various narratives from African and Middle Eastern refugees was an experience I will always remember.
Our trainees make an unlikely community. They differ in the languages they speak, the countries where they were born, and the ways they worship. They are women and men, some wearing jeans and others wearing hijabs. Some are college graduates, some never went to school…. Yet here they are caring for each other, supporting each other, sending a message that it is not only possible for people of different races, religions, and backgrounds to work together, but that there is incredible power, energy, and joy in doing so.
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.