This has been a season of growth for me- of wrestling and searching and a working through of many things. I am so thankful for my Somali friends who have become my teachers, imparting their wisdom in a variety of ways these past few months (years?).
Sometimes I receive messages thanking me (and Mark) for our work for refugees here in Bangkok. And sometimes I can feel in myself this need to be recognized, or rewarded (or at least respected) for my advocacy efforts in this crazy city. It’s true the work is hard and it’s nice to be appreciated. But it’s also true, unfortunately so, that I realized several years ago that if I’m not careful I have a bit of a hero complex.
But friends, I so don’t want you to miss who the hero is in this story- in all these stories that have intersected with mine. I, I am confident, am just the narrator- the teller (and the keeper) of these stories. I have been honored and touched and changed (and rocked to the core) by the knowing of these stories and these people- and they- these strong, brave, intelligent, persevering young men and women- they are the heroes.
A few weeks ago a sweet family sat with us as we asked their opinion about one of our videos for Zaki’s gofundme. They were away from their home for the day because immigration was raiding their apartment complex and they were hoping to avoid arrest. They cried when we all discussed the video- silently let their tears fall. And I have been thinking about things like collective/historical trauma since then. But also- I have wondered at their capacity to mourn for their friend when their reality is so similar. I am so thankful for them and how they are teaching me about how to grieve and how to hope, anyways.
Last week I went to visit a young woman and her 9 month old baby in the IDC. The husband/father met me outside the IDC to pass me a few articles of clothing and a letter to give to his wife. He peppered me with questions I should ask his wife- about the baby and how they were both doing. He probably told me a dozen times that I should be strong- and remind her that she is strong too. While we were waiting for the visitor requests to be processed we sat chatting over coffee. We’d observed several of the large, caged vans pulling out of the parking lot earlier and so remarked that it seemed more raids were planned. I said something like, “these people are horrible” or a similar sentiment. And my friend, who has been unable to eat or sleep for worry of his wife and daughter said, “people are different- some of them are good”. And then he told me about some of his positive experiences with immigration officers. And so I am thankful for my friend who didn’t mind to reprimand me, who wouldn’t allow me to make a generalization about a large group of people. I am thankful that even though he has every reason to allow hate to rule his heart- he chooses to look for the good. Man- I want to be like that.
Earlier this week we shared a meal with another refugee friend. He told us that this month he hasn’t had many expenses and he wants to contribute to Zaki’s gofundme. He gets about $150/month and he gave half of it away. I am not sure if I’ve ever been more humbled than to accept a gift from this sweet teenaged kid who despite all the shit he has gone through still wants to do and be good. I am so thankful to know him- am so thankful for the way he has challenged me to reflect on my “generosity”, on what I sacrifice to love others.
How enriched and full and fun (and funny) my life has become because I have learned from my Somali friends. To all of you Somalis out there who have crossed paths with me- I am so thankful for the ways you have taught me, put up with me, and allowed me to be (in some small ways) a part of your story. I am better because of it. And you guys (and girls) are all my heroes!