“Compassion is what keeps America great” was the title of this morning’s editorial in our local newspaper. It caught our eye.
Americans are a generous people. Across this country you see individuals and communities helping others in little and big ways. You read stories about acts of kindness and people feeling empathy for one another. This unites us, as it unites communities around the world.
Look at the outpouring of support from Americans at times of tragedy near and far. In the wake of Katrina and horror of 9/11, or devastation following Haiti’s 2010 earthquake or Indonesia’s 2004 tsunami. We reached into our wallets, jumped on a bus, organized relief, and cared for the displaced.
“This is just the type of thing to do – you do this for people,” says Nancy Flickinger, a member of a local church group. “They need all the help they can get.”
What is interesting is who she was talking about… a 56-year old Kurdish widow and her sons who have spent the past 2 years in a Turkish refugee camp. They are refugees from Iraq fleeing violence, hoping for the opportunity to build a new life in our town after their world had been torn apart.
For a few weeks it looked like this family of three might not make it to the U.S., despite a lengthy vetting process. But when the travel ban was blocked, they were cleared for resettlement and arrived last night to a welcome of 180 Americans who have all made a 5-year commitment to help with transportation, learning English, and acclimating to life in this country.
Americans are indeed a compassionate people, and that empathy makes us great.
Seven years ago someone who loaned us money to start Prosperity Candle pressed us to figure how we could have a local impact in addition to supporting widows in Baghdad. So we reached out to women refugees recently relocated nearby, and ever since are glad he nudged us in this direction.
Working side by side with refugees who fled persecution, lost their homes and livelihoods, endured endless hardships in refugee camps, and arrived here with little more than hope for a better life has been educational and inspiring, and has enriched our lives and community.
The story we tell is that we helped these foreign-born women, but in truth they have given much more in return. Every day in our candle studio we are grateful for their skill and attention to detail, their diligence and hard work, the constant improvements they make.
Mostly, though, we are we are grateful for their friendship. Compassion and caring go both ways.