I was in the Black Forest, Germany, this past weekend. Rad place. I hit the trails, had dinner with friends, and headed over to Switzerland to catch up with enlightened folks there... Good times.
We also had dinner with our Syrian friends who have been going through the refugee process with the German government and the system is working for them. Granted, they still have family back there and would like them to be here in Europe. Currently there is no way around that apart from them having to wait a year and half to go through the paperwork process. The other alternative is a four thousand km journey—one fraught with border and sea crossings, bribes, and high danger for women especially. Yeah, not too fun to think about your own family going through it.
This afternoon, I was thinking about refugees (I think about them a lot) and remembered what the Irish went through years ago. When I worked the pub scene in London, it wasn't uncommon for an English guy to call me a terrorist because of the history between the two countries. “The Troubles” had long finished, but the hostility was still there. Rewind thirty years ago and the Irish were considered a bunch of homeless scourges in London. The solution? Pay for their fares back home because “The pavements of Dublin are no less comfortable than London's.” That was the headline of The Sun newspaper in 1988 by the way. This is bad but not that bad. We have the same skin color and are neighboring islands, and while it is still an outrageous mentality, it is not even close to the open contempt refugees are held in. How someone fleeing a war torn country for their life can be looked at as some sort of burden or political currency is an indicator for the state of this planet in general. Sure, we talk a good game but it's the 20/80 principal to a T. In fact it's more like 5/95 or 10/90. 10% of people are doing 90% of the work. Why? Because they are looking at these people as human beings with equal rights to their own. It is not a case of well, I just don't know how to get involved. That's the lamest excuse in the book. Thousands of lines of print have been written about it, but concrete action is slow and half-hearted. I would urge you to look around and see what you can do. Many great people I know are getting involved in ways that while small, are contributing massively to breaking down stigma, opening doors in local communities, and erasing the division that breeds misinformation.
It maddens me every time I see a blog post or a Tweet telling us to focus on our “wellness,” or some guru's grandiloquent “wholehearted living” spiel-that we are special and should look at our reflection in the mirror and affirm ourselves. Horse crap. What we should be doing is taking our eyes off of ourselves and projecting our vision outside of our own egocentric little sphere. And I'm not in the least bit sorry if this comes across as a rant. This a pivotal time in our history and not from a let us not be remembered as the generation that stood by standpoint. While that is a cool statement ,it again puts the focus on us. In my experience, the most important thing we can do is #1, love them. Simple as that. Full-on Jesus love. I've seen it in action and it is a force nothing on this earth can overcome. It's the kind of love that will have you selling your possessions and doing outrageous things in its name. If that love is inside you, ignite it. #2, empower people. Every person has a unique gift. Sport, art, language, writing, connecting people, photography, sewing, carpentry, driving, peace making, cooking... The list is long. Get plugged in and use that talent!
Ways you can get involved:
There's a difference between a refugee and a migrant. A refugee is fleeing for their life. A migrant wants better living conditions. Incorrect distinction leads to all sorts of setbacks regarding asylum and government policy. Check out a map on Google of who is coming from where and the hazards they face.
Find a place to use your gift. A dear friend of mine found a camp 15 minutes from her home and has been doing incredible work with children. If there's not one close by, use your imagination, or the Internet.
But where do I donate? There is no shortage of places to give money to. Do your due diligence and make sure the place is legit, though. There's organizations both big and small. Don't have money? That's OK, these people need everything from clothes to old phones. Do some Spring cleaning, empty the garage, just give!
Stop watching cat videos for five minutes and share a positive story. The media is doom and gloom and full of the-end-is-nigh type reports. It focuses on the problem, not the people. We have a lot to learn from refugees. Share what they are teaching you.
Get Family Involved.
Together is better. Any home with a “Refugees are Welcome” attitude is far more powerful than any right wing politician. Kids talk to their friends, parents to their neighbors, and before you know it, a community filled with love and grace is making room for families in need. It's a contagious kind of love and it ripples endlessly.
The ball, as they say, is in your court!