I took my beautiful Sudanese friend, Adhieu Awan, to register for ESL (English as a second language) classes at Salt Lake Community College this morning. The beautiful and talented Katey Hebert Schmidt watched my kids so I could go. (That's beside the point...but I wanted to do a shout out). After we finished with registration, etc. I drove her the rest of the way to work. We talked about how far she has come...one little step at a time. She told me how much she loves her work and thanked me for getting her such a great job. (She sorts clothes at the LDS Humanitarian Center to be sent overseas to countries just like the one she came from). You should have seen the smile on her face a few weeks ago when she got her first ever paycheck.
On our route to work, she pointed out another woman she works with waiting at the bus stop. I wanted to pull over and offer her a ride, but hesitated because it was a tricky traffic situation to get to her. Adhieu suggested I turn right then flip a "U" --the timing was perfect with traffic and the lights and her coworker jumped in the car with a big smile on her face. She introduced herself as Florence. "Oh. I just love that name!" As we drove we chatted about where she was from. "The Congo", she said. "In America 8 month."
"Wow. Are you a refugee?"
With a somewhat glazed look in her eyes she replied simply, "Yes".
"How do you like America? Utah?"
"Very nice. People don't kill each other. People don't tell you to kill. A lot of Christians."
I asked if she lived alone. "No", she said. "I live with my husband and 2 kid."
She and her husband both work. They take turns watching the kids. She has 2 boys, ages 5 and 3. I asked if she needed any clothes for her boys and she warmly and comfortably replied immediately, "Yes. If you have any."
Do I have any? I have boxes and drawers full of random who knows what. I have piles of laundry and so much food to eat it goes bad. I have never been shot at or raped or forced from my home or asked to kill someone else. Yes, I have some! And I have shoes and books and blankets and food and diapers and soap. And I have a listening ear that wants to hear everything you've been through. Please remind me that the fact that I ate way too many saltine cracker toffee pieces last night doesn't matter as much as I think it does. Please ask me again and again "if I have any"... because Utah is a tiny blip in a great big world full of color and struggle and love and diversity.
I'm so glad Adhieu made me stop when I almost drove by because the traffic was too inconvenient to get to her. It's a good thing to mix up our driving patterns once in a while. We miss out on so many experiences otherwise.
If you want to help Florence and her family, or darling Adheiu, please email me (my email can be found at the top of my blog on the 'contact' button). Perhaps I sound ignorant, bitter, or even jealous, but I sometimes hate that a fashion blogger has 22 thousand "followers" and a refugee woman from the Congo needs clothes and food for her kids. (I'm guilty as charged for wanting "all the things".)
This started out as my Facebook status post a few minutes ago and has turned into a quickly written blog/rant/pondering. Thanks for listening.