Pope Francis is urging Catholics all over Europe to take in refugees if they’re able. The Vatican will take in two families.
If the Pope is urging Catholics do this throughout Europe, why aren't Americans being encouraged to do the same? It may be cost prohibitive in regards to travel and logistics, but shouldn’t we be ready and willing anyway?
On Sunday, the Pope said:
“Faced with the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees who flee death from war or hunger, on a journey towards the hope of life, the Gospel calls to us and asks us to be close to them, to the smallest and the abandoned; to give them real hope. Not merely to say; 'be brave, be patient'. Christian hope is assertive, with the tenacity of those who go towards a certain destination”.
Can we organize an effort to help them? Certainly the airlines can transport refugees - or our own military planes can step in to facilitate this. We can find beds, supplies, money, and time. Somewhere. Of course, much is being done by many hands, but are your hands busy yet? Mine aren’t.
The Pope is preparing for, what Catholics call, The Holy Year of Mercy, and the implementation of some radical changes in the Catholic Church. Although some suggest this a PR move, only the result matters. If it drives good, so be it.
Anyone who can take in a family should, at the very least, consider it. Simply because we can. It’s a good exercise for each of us, no matter the outcome. Thinking about this seriously tests us from the inside out. If we do choose to think about how we can make a difference, don’t do it for glory, acceptance, or to be perceived as charitable. Do it because its the right thing to do.
Do it because its who we are and where we come from.
Growing up, my father often brought home strangers who needed help. Sometimes, drunk seamen picked up by the NYPD during furlough from their Norwegian ship docked downtown, other times it was rescued or surviving sailors from ships that went down as afar away as the Bermuda Triangle, and sometimes families who had tragedy strike while away from home needed a bed and a warm embrace. This was long before cell phones and the web. The three of us kids got the bedding out, and gave them our rooms. We were happy to sleep on the floor if need be.
It wasn’t a one way street however. Others had helped us too.
My father came to America as an immigrant on a freight ship, not an ocean liner. He went underground and hid Jews in the hills of Norway while occupied by the Nazis. He risked his life to get them to safety until danger passed. When the war ended, he testified against Nazi sympathizers from his own town in Oslo’s high court. Afterwards, he boarded a freighter for America’s shores to escape the negativity he might have to endure by remaining in Norway in the war’s aftermath. America welcomed him with the arms that have long been our identity. He was proud his children would be American. Not because he was Christian either - and he was. Because they would have opportunity and freedom to create a life of their dreams. He had hope.
A warm welcome and open arms built this country. Being received gave weary travelers a glimmer of belonging and hope - for a better life for them and their children. Hope fuels our national engine. Hope fuels all of humanity’s engines. Hope and vision come alive in people when given the chance to fulfill their purpose - particularly after a long, lonely journey, death at their door, or the pain of war and lost loved ones. They are broken and vulnerable.
It is hope and vision that, ultimately, drives and sustains the creative and compassionate side of humanity - and nations. Without it, we can easily turn stale and static. These values create even more generosity, and keep us moving forward. Your children's dreams are born from it too. Think about your own life. Do you make progress in what matters to you without hope and vision? Without it, life itself gets sucked out of us. With it, we can move mountains.
By adulthood, too many people resign themselves to the same plate and return for the same meal day after day. But what happens when we step out and risk being more creative, bold, or generous in areas we are gifted or passionate about? It activates us. We can become ablaze with passion and dreams. We believe in ourselves, even if it runs concurrent with the fear we may fail. Ultimately, we feel more alive. Even in the face of that fear.
Do you miss that?
What would it feel like to step out of your comfort zone for someone who really needs help? Maybe it doesn’t have to be about money. Maybe it’s about something else, like teaching them something or lobbying to get them here, or helping other Americans understand the refugees are not the terrorists. They are sisters and brothers.
If our policies are too generous, or our incentives not creative enough, let’s find new ones. If we can’t afford it, let’s look at how we spend or feel entitled. If we’re afraid of people from a religion that once tried to destroy us, or even killed those we love, perhaps we should make them dinner or give them a bed for a few nights. We should ask ourselves how we feel after we’ve been that person, not the one looking at the predicament from out of our comfort zone and full of fear.
Let’s reinvent how we do this. Maybe it’s about revisiting something, not reinventing something. And perhaps it’s both. Let’s ask new questions about how it’s done, or what it looks like to open our arms. We’ve changed because life does that. But that doesn’t mean we can’t find the idealism we once knew, in the face of fear we now know. Let’s grab it and own it - and then do the right thing.
Why not take stock and do an inventory to determine if it’s feasible to take in a family for a bit, or team up with others to adopt one for a certain amount of time? Or help in other ways. Maybe we can mobilize an organized effort that makes a difference in the United States. It seems an incredible opportunity to do some good beyond our borders. Won’t you share your thoughts and ideas? We can’t just sit here doing nothing…that’s not who we are at all.
Peace to your house,
Image:image via wikimedia commons