Note: Recently there was a devastating car accident in the refugee community. Lisa, a Make Welcome instructor, took some needed food to one of the families affected in the crash. Here is her account of the visit. As you read, pray for the four families who are dealing with the aftermath of this tragedy.
Swe’s arms hung limp at her sides, her face showing sleepless nights, her eyes dull and blank. Around her scurried others (Friends? Relatives?)—a thin man, vibrant young woman with a little one tied on her back, small children with gleeful smiles—as they unloaded my trunk.
“Many foods!” exclaimed the vibrant one, adjusting the sling as the baby peered over her shoulder. She lifted and swung the twenty-five pounds of rice easily, gracefully, disappearing into the doorway of the apartment. Swe still stood. I smiled, met her eyes, and placed two chickens in her hands. She looked at them, looked at me, turned woodenly toward the door.
Her husband lay miles away, pierced with tubes and lines attached to blinking, beeping machines, wrapped and bound. The accident had come with great force and greater loss: a disabled bus braking ahead, an attempted merge, blind spot, sideswipe, loss of control-- three dead, two injured. One moment in the black of night changed everything. And Swe stood bewildered in a foreign land with few who spoke her language, her three small children clamoring around her numb legs.
Another took the chickens from her and Swe suddenly enveloped me in a hug. Tight, real, aching, like a hug from one of my own children. My heart ached. Where was her own mother? Back in the refugee camps? Did she know yet? I wanted to tell her everything was going to be okay, but the only phrase I knew with anything close to that meaning was kaun deh: “it is good.” And this? This was not good.
The others did quick work, emptying the trunk of collard and turnip greens, cabbage, onions and garlic, mangoes and limes and tart apples. Cartons of eggs were met with oohs and the children squealed at the sight of grapes. The thin man’s face lit with happiness in recognition (Chiles! he cried) at the bag of red and green cayennes from my garden. Swe warmed when I handed her the box filled with containers of fresh, spicy, homemade vegetable soup.
Thank you, she said. Jesu payt. And I was wrapped in another hug. She held on, made a small sound, held on a little longer.
Jesu payt. It sounds almost like “Jesus paid.” Yes, indeed He did.
God bless you, I said. Yes, she replied. Yes. I got in my car to go back to my world, where I never have to worry about where my next meal will come from and where my medical bills are covered and where I understand what the doctor is saying and where, if I really wanted to, I could drive four hours to my mother’s house. And Swe stood on the sidewalk, her hand frozen in mid-air.
(Photo by Terry Grealey, used under Creative Commons license.)