This is a letter I recently sent to my clergy colleagues here in the Episcopal Diocese of WNY, after an appeal from the Bishop’s office to consider helping out in the refugees-don’t-have-housing situation that is currently going on in our city, Buffalo, NY. I share it with you because I think it’s entirely sharable.
Hey y’all.So, I just wanted to share with you (for those who don’t know) that my husband Michael and I have had two refugees living with us for the past nine weeks. They came to us the week before Christmas. They’re getting to the point where they’re about ready to move out – the process of rebuilding their lives has marched on at least that far. Michael and I answered the call when Bill Wipfler emailed us all just before Christmas, and we have never regretted our decision.And I’m writing this email to you not to give you a pre-Lenten serving of guilt and tell you to go and do likewise. I’m writing to tell you about who my husband and I are, and who we’re not in hopes that it may break down some barriers in your hearts and minds, and in the hearts and minds of your parishioners. Please feel free to share this email and its contents.My husband and I live in a small, two bedroom apartment in downtown Buffalo. We have enough discretionary income to buy organic free-range chicken and fancy coffee beans, but not much more than that. We are both introverts. The room that functions as a guest room has a single twin bed in it and enough floor space to squeeze in a second cot, but also serves as my sewing room, our library, and the place we store very nearly everything.Who we’re not is wealthy, and I have plenty of debt, both commercial and student that I brought into our marriage. We don’t have a big house with lots of room, or even a big apartment with lots of room. We don’t have a lot of resources. But we had space for two more people. (Barely.) We had food enough to feed two more mouths. (They don’t eat much.) We had patience enough to help them decipher sixteen page missives from the Department of Social Services. (I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, much less someone whose first language isn’t English.) And explain checking accounts. And credit cards. And mortgages. And the DMV.We weren’t their caseworker. They have a very competent one, and she guided them through the morass of applying for state aid and jobs and other things, all of which they now both have.We became their family; the American branch. Like an adult child who returns to live with their parents for three months after a messy divorce (or in their case, unjust incarceration, torture, escape, and a harrowing journey that led them eventually into Texas by way of the Sudan, with a side trip of getting lost in a central American jungle with no food for ten days) – we provided respite, safety, security, someone to ask questions of over dinner, someone to rejoice with them when they each were hired at a dependable job for decent wages.But more than that.We renewed our other friends’ sense of the goodness of humanity. (We have some cynical friends.)Our families welcomed them at Christmas. Our parishes and friends have helped out in various beautiful ways.And I’ve spoken with so many people over the last nine weeks – too many people – for whom this action of ours seems extraordinary, something they could never do.And friends, that’s bullshit.Michael and I are not saints. (I know you know I’m not, but I’m here to tell you, he’s not either.) We are absolutely normal, run of the mill people who heard the still, small voice of God saying, ‘You could do that. Wanna try?’And we did.That’s all.And if God is nudging you, if there is any tiny voice within you saying ‘huh – I wonder if I should do that?’ or ‘I could never do that, could I?’ then I’m here to encourage you to surrender to the Almighty; he has a better idea of what you’re capable than you do.Still not a saint,Sare Liz Anuszkiewicz
All you have to do is be human and in touch with your essential humanity. That’s more rare than it ought to be and I admire you both for your efforts.