We are called to serve one another and to be that help that is often missing in our world. At JRS/USA, it’s a particular calling to accompany our displaced brothers and sisters. But choosing who, where, and how to help can be a daunting task. What’s required is taking a moment to slow down and discern a way forward. For me, an easy way to figure out which way to go is through the recognition of my gifts and talents. We’ve been given them for a reason, so why not figure out a way to use them for the benefit of others? If you’re a skilled communicator or artist, why not use your voice to be an advocate for others or to spread joy and hope through your artwork? Or, like myself, if you have a passion for helping others, why not mentor those in need as they undergo life’s journey?
A favorite memory of mine is a bus ride I took in Omaha, Nebraska. I was accompanied by a refugee family of six—a mother, father, and four children. Gathering a few belongings, some food, and a soccer ball, we were headed a mile up the road toward a neighborhood park on a Sunday afternoon. You couldn’t have asked for a better day to kick a ball around on the green grass (preferred over the cramped apartment’s floor) and to catch a few rays of sun, so we took full advantage of this remarkable moment.
It was the family’s second month in America and their first time on the bus. Coming from a refugee camp in Thailand, the family was at the beginning of their resettlement in the United States. Tasked with navigating a family through a new country and culture, taking the bus to the park was low on the list of the parents’ priorities. Also, for a family that spoke little to no English, numerous challenges could arise if they took the trip without some support.
As a mentor to this refugee family, it was the short lessons that would make a big impact. Simply pointing out signs, reading bus numbers, and demonstrating how to pull the cord to stop the bus could be their ticket to acclimating to their new environment. It was teaching these actions, that are often taken for granted, that empowered the family to move about without fear in their new community. And it was through accompanying this family, as they took these small steps to autonomy, that I was able to gain an understanding of the experience of a refugee.
As I rode the bus with that family in Omaha, my one thing to do was to be a companion and a smiling face amidst all the uncertainty on their journey. It was something quite simple, but it was also something truly remarkable, for that journey on the bus gave the family access to a world beyond their apartment. A few days after the initial bus trip, I went to visit them at their apartment and they were not there. Returning a few days later, I found them at home. When I asked where they were during my last visit, they told me they were on the bus. Lesson learned.
Here at JRS/USA, we have a list of ways that can help you in your discernment to do one thing for refugees, but know there is no cap to the things you can do for displaced people. We are all unique and should not limit the ways we show God’s love to others. And no action is too small—a prayer or a postcard can bring so much joy.
So, what one thing will you do to help refuges and migrants in 2019? Check out our campaign page to learn more and make your resolution to #Do1Thing.
You can ask Josh specific questions during the JRS/USA #Do1Thing Facebook Live on Thursday, January 10 at 12:00 PM ET. We’ll be discussing the #Do1Thing campaign and how you can get involved http://bit.ly/JRSUSAFBLIVE
Josh Utter is the Outreach and Advocacy Coordinator at JRS/USA. Before joining us, he spent a few years in discernment with the Jesuits.