Their story: Teaching players ‘what they’re capable of’

Maybe the most important work of the Lansing Youth Football Club team isn’t what happens on the field.

Sure, soccer matters to the dozen and a half guys on the team. Almost every day the players carpool to Lansing’s Francis Park for two or three hours of practice. Occasionally they scrimmage teams from Grand Rapids. They train for tournaments in Detroit, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

“This (team) is our passion,” said one of the team’s captains, Damber Magar. Like most of the players on this independent soccer team, Damber’s family are Bhutanese and came to Lansing as refugees from Nepal. Damber’s family was resettled through St. Vincent Catholic Charities in 2010.

[…]

Their story: ‘America offers everything’

“This is home,” Nael Al Saedi said, sitting on his couch one rainy Saturday afternoon.

His family walked in and out of their living room, taking turns telling stories and listening to each other’s. The home has been theirs for less than a year — bought about seven years after arriving in Lansing as refugees.

Inside, the youngest helped herself to ice cream at the kitchen table. Outside, a red, white, and blue pinwheel spun in the landscaping.

This is home, he said.

[…]

Social justice for ‘the rest of us’

On the way to their town house’s parking lot we smile at each other, quietly, nervously. You’ve never driven a car, I ask. No, she says. Not even once? I ask. No, she says. I decide to start in an empty parking lot somewhere; I mention this but I’m unsure if she comprehends. So I Read more about Social justice for ‘the rest of us’[…]

How we respond here to the refugee crisis

I watch my friend in her sparse kitchen. She uses a small saucepan to scald milk for us to drink. Dave used to do the same when he baked bread in our kitchen, and the sweet-sour smell reminds me of home. She pours two steaming glasses and then sits on the folding chair, the only Read more about How we respond here to the refugee crisis[…]

Advice for those discouraged by the election

Dave, Louisa, and I climbed a few uneven cement steps to the door of a stranger. Knocked.

A woman wearing a beautiful teal scarf on her head answered the door with a confused expression. It’s hard to convey “we’re here to mentor you” with someone who doesn’t speak English.

Pause.

For those of you who woke up Wednesday discouraged, consider this moment. Think about what we as hopeful visionaries, Jesus followers, and do-gooders have gained, even in our disappointment.

[…]

The refugee images that won’t let us go

This morning, Louisa stood by our gnome, Christopher Robin, and smiled for a photograph. She held her lunchbox and wore her monkey backpack, all ready for the first day of day care. Her knobby knees, her cheese-ball grin: she’s so 3.

She’s not a baby. She’s a little person.

I held my cousin’s third baby last week, sweet baby Cora. For two hours I held that squirming, sleepy baby on my shoulder and in my arms. Her elbows and knees poked from beneath the gauzy blanket in the same way Louisa’s did from my belly. I didn’t want to let her go: all the warm fuzzy hormonal feelings flooded over me in a way they never did when I had my own babies, thanks to depression and sleep deprivation. (Plus, it’s compelling being an honorary aunt.) Sweet baby.

Memories of the first weeks of Louisa’s life came back, in and out with the news last week: refugees. Refugees, and a two-year-old drowned, washed up on a Turkish beach, and I cried more over that story than I have over news stories ever. I cried because the boy’s body reminded me of Louisa’s knobby knees, and because just two years on earth isn’t enough, and he spent his years in a dangerous place.

 

Oh, sweet baby.

It’s horrific, and holding a baby in my arms who is just as loved as the Syrian baby in his or her mother’s arms tonight, right now — it’s too much. God, it’s too much.

I cried, too, because it’s a home they were after: a safe place. Oh, sweet baby.

***

[…]