a letter to the exiles
(Originally posted September 24, 2015)
To the refugees in exile everywhere:
I’m trying to imagine what I would say to you if we were face to face, what I would do with my hands and this one thumping organ I’ve learned to call a heart.
If you’d let me, I would touch my forehead to yours and just absorb. I would absorb the heave of your chest, the sorrow of your story, the texture of your skin. I would take in the unique hue of your irises, the fear of your flight and your survivor’s strength. I’d stay for days and go through every one of your emotions and motions; learning your language and ways and rhythms.
My fervor and feeling might be too much for you or not enough, I don’t know. I’ve never walked a mile in your life. But I would share my light, my love, my food, my energy, my shelter–everything I am and have. I’d bleed beside you if it was my time of the month and gladly without the necessary supplies just to know what it must’ve been like for some of you to flee while on your flow.
I don’t know how to give myself in little pieces. Here I am, all of messy me.
During the demands and beautiful jungle of everyday life I still find myself distracted and thinking of you. Sometimes I lay in bed and find one of your families standing behind my eyes, haunting me with that silent plea I see. I have a strange condition called connection. I can’t think of me and my comfort and food and the mattress I sleep on without thinking of you and wondering what nook–what patch of earth–you place your head on at night; what kind of sustenance is keeping you just enough alive.
Are you eating Greek food or French food or German food, any food but your own kind of Syrian food?
God! What is it like to be displaced? I’ve created a story in my mind’s eye, a story where me and mine are flying from the frying pan and running for our lives straight into the fire. The fire is surely where you are.
Sometimes the fire is having nothing to your name but the skin you were born in. Sometimes the fire is an open sea without shore or certainty in sight. Sometimes the fire is a dirty, wet camp with no warmth. Or watching your babies drown and wash up face-planted in the sand.
Yes, sometimes fires are cold like open water or the ice of unwelcoming hearts. I’m putting your shoes on my feet and through grit and blisters I’m saying red tape and bureaucracy and infrastructure be damned. There is room for everybody; there is always a way–we are a creative and resourceful lot. In my estimation we have more than 11 million guest rooms in our country alone. But it’s not space and assets we lack. It’s just that we’re too full and rusted shut with fear and a few other things to spring our doors of bounty open.
The world is not yet set to rights, you know this more than I.
In light of the affairs you find yourself in and because of all the shut doors and shores, you might be tempted to think that you are somehow a deficit to the global family. Hear me: You are not a deficit to the global family for having diddly-squat and needing a handout for every basic need; bread and blankets. More often than not people with nothing are the real contributors and deliverers of everything important and eternal. You are saving us from ourselves; teaching us how to be human; demanding that our gospel meet your reality.
And reminding us, for the love of all things holy, that we do not live in a universe of scarcity, but of abundance. Abundance! Loaves and fishes aside, I’ve heard a hundred true stories of food and resources being shared and how everything then multiplies like magic.
Sharing manifests magic. If you ask for my shoes, I’ll give you my tunic too and together we’ll see the sky split wide. We’ll wash in the sweet rain of reserves.
Sometimes I rail against the circumstances that don’t allow for me to come to you. Instead I sit behind a computer screen zooming in on the maps of your land, reading the latest and watching your country empty out. It looks to me like someone has tipped Syria upside-over and is shooking her good and people are literally falling from her boundaries like grains of priceless sand pouring through an hourglass.
We all take breaks from looking, the way a person leaves the hospital for fresh air when one of their own is sick or suffering, but I will keep grieving when grieving calls to me and I will keep praying when I close my eyes and see you standing there. You are not alone. So many of us are pushing our love and funds and care packages across sea and scapes like Kingdom needs to come on earth as it is in heaven.
Together is the only way to walk each other home.