Do you remember what it feels like to have to integrate into a new environment? A place where everyone has a place except for you? It needn’t be a foreign country. Remember you have started a new job, for example? Remember your first day at school or college, or meeting your boyfriend or girlfriends’ family, or friends? When you slapped a smile on your face and tried to do, wear and say the right thing. They may have let you into the clique, they may not. You were the newcomer and the outsider. You were at their mercy.
Or your first day at the office, where someone had been assigned to ‘take care of you’. You were given the tour and introduced to a few people, given some health and safety instructions, before being left to your own devices. Your new colleagues soon revealed what kind of people they were. Some went out of their way to help you and get you up to speed, while others… well, you didn’t bother them with your questions.
You are a refugee arriving in a ‘safe’ country. An immigration officer has been assigned to take care of you, shows you where to sleep and gives you some food. You don’t know where you are. You don’t know what you are supposed to do and you do not know anyone. Those around you soon reveal what kind of people they are and you gravitate towards the ones who listen to you and help you. The others, well you won’t be bothering them with your questions. When you go out, people look suspiciously at you because you don’t look the same as they do and you have a different culture. Some people are openly hostile.
These people will only be able to integrate if we open our hearts and even our homes to them. If we spend some time teaching them our language and forging friendships with them. Did someone throw you a lifeline when you were an outsider and a newcomer? Now it’s your turn. As Bob Hope said, “If you haven’t any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.”