I love October. The summer heat has receded, and the leaves are resplendent in their autumn colors. We celebrate World Communion Sunday in October; my favorite Fair Trade fair takes place this weekend; and the Cubs are in the playoffs! What’s not to love?
This particular October is especially meaningful for me. I’ve started a new volunteer gig, in the immigration legal services office. I’m putting into practice what I learned in my immigration law course, and continuing to learn in a real-world setting how to best serve immigrants. When I came into the office the first morning, who was there but my friend Daniel from Burundi! My husband and I and some friends formed the mentor team to help Daniel and his family settle here and understand the community. They’ve been in the US for just over a year now, and I’d been planning to contact him to ask if they had an appointment to apply for their green cards. But they beat me to it—they already had an appointment scheduled, and are working on the preliminary paperwork.
The following Monday I spent time with my Karen friend Ruth from Burma. Ruth has been in the US for almost 7 years, and is now a citizen. She will vote in November’s election!
Tuesday brought the African women’s gathering, where I saw Daniel’s wife, Gloria, among others. The women have been gathering monthly for fellowship and support. At their first meeting 14 women, dressed in colorful African garb, participated in an hour of instruction on the djembe drum. The women started slowly at first, but the energy built quickly and the walls between the women broke down. In a room nearby, the children danced to the sounds of the drums. By the end of their time together, the women planned to meet every month. Since then they’ve brought African food for a potluck, and they’ve been learning the basics of machine sewing. Now they want to meet more often, and learn how to sew “real clothes.”
Yesterday my husband and I drove to Denver to visit some of the Nepali families we mentored when they first arrived here four years ago. Two of the brothers have purchased a large, beautiful house together! Not yet citizens, they’re already realizing the American Dream.
Are my refugee friends assimilating to life in the US? Undoubtedly. Are they contributing to society? Absolutely! Are they dangerous, a threat to America’s security and way of life? Ha! Not even close. They’re thankful to live in a land of opportunity, where they can work, educate their children, and practice their respective religions freely. This is the America I believe in, and I thank God for it. What is my American Dream? To continue to help the newest Americans achieve their dreams.