I stand with Refugees

February 9th, 2017 by Patricia Jehle Leave a reply »

Where do you stand?

 

I wrote this blog almost two years ago, but it bears reposting at the moment. I have changed very little but the paragraph at the end is new.

Refugees are human beings with human rights, needs, fears, and a lot of bravery. #Istandwithrefugees

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I am in the USA and recently had the opportunity of flying on a very special flight to Chicago.

 

My Confusion

The Zürich-Chicago flight was half-full and I was tired because of my early rising to be “on time” for arrival at the airport. Hurry up and wait is the motto of flying, especially internationally.

 

Because I was bleary-eyed, the group Swiss was boarding (they always board groups early) looked to me like a band or choir. Their uniforms were obviously African in dress and their skin tone matched the traditional dress of the women. The men wore more western clothing, but it was all the same. I was rather confused as to why so many small children, also in the same clothing, were flying with the band/choir.

 

Freedom

Upon boarding I was pleased to note that I had a free seat next to me and spread out accordingly, getting comfortable, starting to watch “The Theory of Everything” when the African gentleman from the choir across the aisle from me asked what to do with the customs card. I was free, having nothing to do for nine hours ahead of me, so I was happy to help.

 

Clarification

After pausing the movie and taking off my headphones, I started to explain the reason for the card and then what was required in each box: name, flight, and passport. When we got to passport part, the young man was a bit concerned. I showed him my passport to illustrate and he shook his head. He had no passport, “just” a bag with him, which he showed me. The bag was printed with something like, “International Migration Services”.

 

Well, by then I had figured it out. There were about three dozen brave refugees on board, flying to the USA for a new life.

 

I felt privileged to be able to vicariously experience their arrival in a country where they would not have to live in a war zone. The man, a father with two little boys, was traveling with his wife to Chicago first and then to Florida. In Chicago the group would break up and go on to the places where they had sponsors. I still think often of these people and their bravery.

 

Bravery

The family had already experienced many firsts on their journey from Guinea to Tanzania via Nairobi and then from Tanzania to Chicago via Zurich: new clothes (they were all dressed alike because of the IRC -International Refugee Committee- donations and thus I thought they were a musical group), flying on an airplane, so many Caucasians around them, new food, new language, new climate.

 

The refugees would also be experiencing many more firsts soon, ones not always so positive. I felt for this man, for his wife and kids, for all the others. The list of new challenges they will encounter can go on forever, but their fear of the new was overridden by the fear of what they had left. They had left a war zone. The father said, “Whatever is ahead is better than being killed, seeing your children killed.”

 

Lessons learned

I can learn from this man; we all can. He has already been able to overcome what seems to me to be insurmountable barriers. He was able to make important, if very hard, decisions, and to continue on his way to a new solution, a new place.

 

He had few illusions to the difficulties he would face ahead, but he believed that there was opportunity ahead and only death and destruction behind. He knows that his future is in his hands and he has taken the responsibility seriously.

 

Today, 21 months later

I wish I knew what has happened to this little family of four. Are they still in Florida? Have they been accepted? Are they on some awful list to be deported. Only God knows. It breaks my heart to see the way the refugee stories are playing out at the moment. I hope it breaks yours, too.

 

May you be able to face the difficult moments and make brave decisions.

My coaching website can be found at www.jehle-coaching.com

You can write me at patricia@jehle-coaching.com

Refugee children at play

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