Each Tuesday and Thursday I go with the volunteers and employees of the Episcopal refugee network. We meet at St. Luke’s at 7am. Our trip to the Miramar area, San Diego Food Bank is in the going to work traffic. So we start the day inch by inch.
We use a pickup truck and two volunteers cars. Four door compact cars will hold a lot of food. Food is stuffed into every nook and cranny by the time we are finished loading one cannot see out the back window, very grateful for side view mirrors.
On the first and third Tuesday’s the food is taken to St. Alban’s in El Cajon. After one of these trips a volunteer said we sure made a lot of families happy today. That got me thinking about how I am so task orientated most of the time I do not think of things like this until after the day is over.
Tutoring is a real joy for all of us. The kids are ready to go to work and to play. They read to me and then I read to them. We play math games; work on times tables and combination tables. We laugh so loud the others complain about our noise. So we smile and are very quite for the rest of the time together. I have taken some of the children to their homes after tutoring. On the way we sing songs and tell very corny jokes.
I am not blind to the cultural shock the families are experiencing nor of the shyness of children and parents. I try to build a safe space for fun, work, and togetherness. I try hard to provide a comfortable and supported environment in which the children can tell their stories. I am not sure if healing can take place in the parents, but the children can heal and move on. There is much written about cultural shock and loss.
These people have lost home, country, friends, and culture (food’s). They no longer have the extended family support of their homeland. So they deal with,separation, identity, and sexuality, interact with critical issues of being a refugee (loss and grief, survivor guilt, trauma reactions, and cultural discontinuity). They are grieving in a most stoic way. It is hard for me to come to grips with their loss. It is one thing to know intellectually the definitions it is another to work with and through the emotions.
I know we make families happy with food and the children happy with song. But I can’t heal the woundedness of loss. But as I listen I allow myself to feel with the storyteller, which is never easy but so very important.
ps. Benedict of Nursia day so we get a pastry after dinner!