I heard some of the most beautiful and painful words this week. The sentence was translated as something along the lines of “I have discovered humanity again today.” Beautiful because of what the person making the statement was experiencing in that moment but painful because of the journey and experiences that lay behind them.
Why had someone not experienced humanity?
I don’t know their story, and it is their story, it is not mine. All I know is that they left the place they called home and with their family travelled to a foreign place because they had no choice but to leave and say good bye to all they knew, all that was familiar, the place they called home was no longer safe.
I don’t know what that journey was like, but I have seen enough in the news and spoken with enough people to know it won’t have been easy. I know it will have taken weeks or even months.
Then you arrive in a place with a different language, different processes and bureaucracy and a whole host of alien experiences, sights, sounds, smells and tastes, and all you have with you are the clothes you are wearing and your family.
When you finally receive confirmation that you have leave to remain as a refugee you are housed in yet another new place. Four walls, shelter and an empty shell.
Somehow you find yourself at the local Foodbank where someone is able to translate between second languages. It is broken communication, but it is communication.
This is where my story begins.
I receive an email. There is a family in need of more than just food – does anyone at church have some clothes, winter coats, pots, pans, plates, cutlery, the list goes on. Do I happen to know anyone who speaks a particular language (one I’ve not heard of before)?
I know how to find stuff. The things are no problem. I send an email to church members, make a couple of calls and mention it to a few parents at the school gate. Donations start to arrive. The language – well within 10 minutes of being asked I have two people willing and able to translate. At this point I’ve not met either.
With some items collected and a couple of translators available we arrange to meet the family. The dad comes (I shall call him Haris but that’s not his real name), joins us for coffee in the church. Sat around with warm drinks Haris got to speak with people who understand his words, who were prepared to listen, translating so others could communicate. Those around the table simply wanted to love this man and he was overwhelmed.
I held back, getting on with other tasks. They didn’t need me at this point.
I have the privilege of being part of a local community that means I am in touch with a lot of people, I can reach out to ask for favours. I am in a church that welcomes people of all faiths and none. Sat around the table there were Christian, agnostic, atheist and Muslim. Sat around the table were different levels of educations from those with no qualifications to someone with an MA. Around the table were male and female, at least 4, if not 5 nationalities (and there were only 8 people involved). Without each of them I could not have done anything for this family, with each of them the family experienced welcome from strangers, love from new neighbours and experienced humanity at it’s best for what must have been the first time in a long time judging from the expression on the face of Haris.
The broken church is beautiful like this. All I did was send a few emails, open the door and put the kettle on.