Tuesday, January 19, 2010

1 minute stories: Sibling love, Citizenship, and Homelessness

1. Yesterday was my sister's 17th birthday. How did she get so old? I remember the day she was born! This was her facebook status yesterday:
Matt (our littlest brother) made my life: after blowing out the candles on my cake he said "michelle, i made a wish!" i said "oh shoot, i forgot to make one!" then he said "it's okay, i made one for you! i wished that you will be my sister, always." ...sweetest kid ever!
I know. AWWWW.

2.    Last night Isaac and were going over a curriculum about life stages and events with the refugee couple that we work with. It was geared towards immigrants and refugees, so some of the items were immigration, green card, getting a job, etc. Tee Reh knew most of it, but he didn't know what citizenship meant. We explained. I believe he's never been a citizen anywhere. Burma doesn't recognize their people group and essentially kicked them out of the country. They lived in camps in Thailand but weren't accepted into the country. They are a people without a home, without even a place to issue a passport for them. 

We explained that in two months when his baby is born here in America, the baby will automatically be an American citizen. One day their child will be able to vote. He/she will never be kicked out of the country. He/she will have full rights and privilages of an American, no matter where in the world they go. I asked them if they knew Barack Obama's story. I told them that his father had come to America from another country. I told them that because their baby would be born in American, one day he or she could be the President of the USA. They stared in disbelief.

We moved on, but Tee Reh came back to the subject and pointed at the word "citizenship" again. "I can be this?"

Yes. You can. It will take time. First you need a green card. You need to keep studying English. You have to pass a test about America. You have to pay a lawyer. But yes, one day you can be an American citizen.The fact that that is possible for them is an amazing thing. I, for one, would be proud to have them as members of my country.

Military Naturalization Ceremony - Yongsan Korea - 15 December 2008 - USFK - United States Army - USAG-Y

3.    Working with refugees sometimes means we have the chance to explain amazing or ridiculous things about our culture like... say... kitty-litter boxes.  Last night Tee Reh asked us to explain something he didn't understand. It took a while for us to understand what he was asking, but eventually we got that he had seen people living on the street and under the highway, and he didn't understand why they were sleeping there. He said before he came to America someone told him about those people, and he didn't believe them. Now he sees it and it makes him angry.

Homeless Vet (film)

Ahhh.. Homelessness is a new concept for someone that is from a jungle village and has never seen a city. We explained. We explained that sometimes these people are mentally ill. Sometimes they had bad luck, and they are poor. Sometimes they are lazy, and they don't want to keep a job. We talk about homeless shelters and soup kitchens. We talk about how sometimes it is hard to work and pay rent and all of that, but that no one has to live on the street, and there are many people that want to help. We say that there are homeless people in every city. In the village it's different than the city. There is more stuff in the city, but there is also more to lose, and more to get lost in.

Tee Reh says that in his village they had a board listing the places they could immigrate to as refugees with descriptions of every place. He says that America looked very good, but now that he is here he thinks it is not as good as he used to think.

Indeed. It isn't bad. He has rights here, he can be a citizen, he can work and get an education. But no, America isn't easy.


junglewife said...

About the homelessness comment... Dan and I recently watched a short series on National Geographic Channel called "Meet the Natives." Have you seen it? If not, I think you would like it. There's a group from a tribe in Vanuatu who go to Britain, and another group who goes to the US. They have video cameras and basically make a documentary about "meeting the natives" of the country they are visiting. Very fascinating. What made it even more interesting to me is that their culture is very similar to Papua - they even look like Papuans! So to hear them talking about raising pigs, and growing sweet potatoes... well, it just makes me think what it would be like if a jungle Papuan went to the States!

anyway, all that to say - they had very harsh things to say about homelessness, too. Especially when they had just seen their host family take their dog in to get groomed! And then to see people living out on the streets...

But yes, it's very hard to explain to a jungle person why everyone can't just have their own home!

Jobe said...

How neat that you and Isaac are able to help this couple. That must be a rewarding and interesting ministry. I hope Tee-reh settles in soon enough, even with all of America's intricacies.

And your brother sounds very sweet. :) I watched a few videos from forever ago with him in them and I thought he looked like he was having fun.

Not sure where the spellchecker went...though I think you're doing just fine.

The Bald Guy said...

Happy Birthday to your sister! And Yay Matt! That's so cool!

Ditto about Blogger's spell check. Grrrhhh!

Kacie said...

Interesting! Looks like I can watch "meet the natives" online... so I might have to give that a try!

Hans said...

Working with refugees is amazing isn't it? I used to work on a mentoring scheme for refugees called Time Together in London - hands down most rewarding and humbling job I've ever had. Am going to try and find a volunteer opportunity like this in Boston, although since I'm not American and trying to integrate myself it might be a case of blind leading blind!