Sunday, November 21, 2004

Bantu Thanksgiving

Little did I know that Tucson has one of the largest refugee resettlement areas in the country; there are literally half a dozen resettlement agencies that help out people from all over the world. Yesterday, I was exposed to this subculture within Tucson when Jim, John and I volunteered with the International Refugee Committee and helped out with their annual Thanksgiving dinner. The dinner is held a local church and is a chance for the refugees to get out of their apartments, mingle with each other and experience American cuisine for the first time.

Our job was shuttling people back and forth from their apartments to the church. The IRC rents blocks of apartments so many of the families can live close together at first--makes the transition a lot less scary. When our three car caravan drove up, there were throngs of Somalian Bantus waiting outside, mostly women and excited, skinny children with snotty, dirty faces and ragged clothing.

I felt like I was in Kenya again. These little kids looked up at me with their expectant eyes, slipped their grimy little hands in mine and trusted me. Suddenly, I was right where I was suppose to be.

I also felt like an American matatu. The women had so many children and we didn't have enough car seats and they didn't want to leave their kids behind for the next load, so mamas tucked their small children in the corners of the car. One woman loaded her four children up and then when I turned around as I was backing out, she had pulled another small baby from underneath her voluminous robes and was nursing.

My heart goes out to these families. What they must have seen and dealt with before they escaped to this country. Yet, they aren't bitter, they aren't wallowing in self-pity. They have so little to be thankful for and yet here they are, eating turkey, laughing, dancing, chatting and embracing life. They are truly thankful.

The closer I get to thinking I have answers, the more I realize I have a lot to learn.

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