Sunday, December 16, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Actually, it's not.  But we did take an afternoon off to join a holiday celebration, where we made paper ornaments.  

Children are so beautiful.  It's obvious, no?  I was struck that afternoon by their openness and happiness.  Even as refugees recognized by the UN, the vast majority of these children are illegal and could be snatched up and locked away in detention just like that. (And they often are.)  Yet, aware of this risk, they don't carry that fear in their faces or their laughter.

That fear is what I encounter every day at work.  No matter what the country of origin, unaccompanied or with five family members, adult refugees speak of that fear and how it dictates their daily lives.

The first few times I heard their stories of flight and sat witness to the welled-up tears and then the sobs that grew violently heavy, gripping them, I was paralyzed in my seat.  What do you say to someone who has just escaped a mob of religious fundamentalists who tried to burn down their family's home?  "It will be okay," sounds incredibly patronizing in that context.

In that regard, this work has been challenging for me.  Although I remain logical in that interview room, I take their stories home, whether I want to or not.  Increasingly, I have dreams that resemble the stories I hear. 

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