Monday is becoming the day that pulls my heartstrings and gives me a reality check. Today I took a trip to the food stamp office to help one of my Chin friends re-apply for food assistance and medicaid.
I got to know her family over the summer, and was there to help register her two daughters for school. I was listed as their emergency contact and kind of became part of their small family. They've been in America for about 4 years and the girls have settled into America, but the mom is still having trouble adjusting. She is a single parent, and works 10 hour days to provide for her family. She was only able to attend English school for one month before she had to start working. Because of this, she has never really been able to settle into the culture. As we walked arm in arm to find an internet source to pay her electricity bill she said to me in Burmese, "Katie it is not easy for me to live here. It is so cold. I can't speak English. If I want to go somewhere I can't even tell the taxi driver where to take me. In Malaysia I could speak the language and I had a good job. Why is it so difficult here?" I couldn't help but to agree with her. It was 30 degrees outside, much colder than I am used to, and I inched closer to her, just to be a presence supporting her.
We went to the food stamp office and waited for 2 1/2 hours before our number was called. We talked while we waited. She shared with me how she hasn't been sleeping very well (she works from 4 pm-2 am). She has so much responsibility as a single mom, and no one to support her. Tears came to her eyes. She leaned her head against my shoulder and I put my arm around her, feeling honored that she trusted enough to cry and share her troubles with me.
The paperwork was turned in and the appointment made for her interview. As we drove home, I stopped at a pho restaurant and we had lunch together. As we continued on our way, she found out that she had been laid off from her job. They had too many workers, and didn't need her anymore.
I take a lot for granted. The roof over my head, my car, a drivers license, health insurance, a job that pays me well, the ability to speak English, the university education I'm receiving, the familiarity with American culture, parents who support me and pray for me... the list goes on and on.
I was sharing with one of my customers about the refugees and my future goal to move to Burma.
"Why would you do that? Why would you put yourself in danger like that? It sounds miserable." He sounded almost disgusted.
We have so much. I have so much. How can we not give our time, energy, and resources to help people who need it when we have been given more than we need? With each day that I spend with someone from the refugee community, this truth deepens in my heart. I cannot deny them.