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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

All God's People

One of the things my superiors have always commented upon has been my ability to "endear" people to myself and build rapport by taking our conversations outside of the parameters of our business relationship, lightening the conversation, bringing both themselves and I into the picture as people. No one trained me to do this; I'm actually just naturally nosy and talkative, and apparently, this force can be directed to Good!

This trait of mine has been addressed at many positions, even the ones that were complete failures for me; somehwere in my life, God gave me the ability to put people at ease when they are in crisis and make something as boilerplate as a recorded statement into a conversation. Perhaps had I remained in Law Enforcement I would have been able to obtain great confessions...but that's not who I am.

I do love people. I love their stories and legitimately want to learn about their lives. (Yeah, I'm also completely ego-centric as evidenced by this blog.)

Today, though, I heard a story that stopped me in my tracks such that I had to share it with my co-workers.

Keep in mind; I hate my job and the subject and focus of my job; not the customers. (Some are irritating to no end and there's nothing we can do right...)

This lady hails from Russia and has been in the United States for 15 years. I'm not sure how we got on the topic, but she made a comment about something so I opened the door wider and asked her what brought her here. She grew up under a dictatorship and when Gorbachev came into power, there was a very brief window of freedom for the people of Russia. This was her opportunity. She fled the country into the Ukraine, lived with her son for awhile and then they traveled to the United States, where they became citizens and made a life here.

She acknowledged that even though it's now "home", it's not Russia, it's not her homeland, and it's not perfect. However, she also knew that it was a gift to embrace the comforts and opportunities of this country, and she is giving something much as she is able. This summer, she is traveling back to the Ukraine, six hours from her own country. She will be so close to her family, yet she will not be able to visit because, as she said, Russia is still under a dictatorship. Should she try to return home, she would be considered to be a spy, she would be arrested, and she would never be released.

She will, in all liklihood, never see her family again.

Over the phone, I could hear how this breaks her heart. How she misses home. Her country is not about the political machine that governs it currently any more than the US is about our own political machinations. It is about family. It is about the land. It is about roots.

And she can never go home again; she can never embrace her family again.

This is true suffering.

I thank God for introducing me to people like her, to help remind me that we are a country of refugees, a society made up of people who have fled various nations and various histories, and we have made our home here. We have been born here, and we are now citizens of a soverign nation.

Sadly, we have forgotten our ancestry; we have completely come to disregard the sufferings of our previous generations who left family and land and home to sacrifice for the future lives of the progeny yet unborn; us.

Take some time tonight to consider from whence you came; consider your ancestry and the nations your grandparents or great-grandparents, etc. fled for the promise of the lives that would come, including yours. Consider their suffering, when the journey entailed, and how they could never go home again, either.

We are a country of refugees; let us remember, upon meeting those who are such recent Americans or even temporary residents, that they have come here for a reason, and everyone has a story. Most of them will calmly tell you stories of harrowing escapes, but gloss over them so you will not see their pain. They will tell you of fallen walls and dictatorships, they will tell you not of hovels, but of beloved family members they will never see again.

We must become family to people who are displaced and would not choose this country but for certain circumstances; we must listen to their stories and recognize that, but for the grace of God, there go we.


Fr. V said...

Both sets ofmy grandparents came here fro Slovenia. I once asked my grandpa why he came. I thought he said, "Hanburger drove me out of Europe." I assumed either he was tired of it or that he liked it and had to come here to get it. I was telling this story to someone recently and they kindly informed me, "Not hamburger you dolt, HAMBURG!"


Hidden One said...

Huh. A friend of mine and her mtoher are in Ukraine right now on a mission's trip. You just reminded me to pray for them - thanks!

Alice said...

Thanks Adoro for this!
My parents both (sort of) joke that they came to Australia as political refugees from Mrs. Thatcher.
My Grandparents followed them to Australia and I know their pain, but they did it for their grandchildren - for me.
That's crazy, Fr. V, I've just come back from 6 months in Ljubljana studying, it's a wonderful country and the churches are beautiful. Hvala lepa Slovenja!

Fr. V said...


Dober dan!