The rush of arrival.

My friend Brigitte, who I helped resettle to Fargo in 2009, took me to meet two families who have recently resettled.  One family consists of two young women, one 20, the other maybe 14 or 15–sisters. They have been in Fargo since July; they have been placed in grade 8 and 10, a couple of grades below their age level.  I asked them how “Parent-Teacher” conferences went, wondering if they were even invited to such events, and at least their case workers went with them.  Can you imagine arriving in Nairobi Kenya or Lagos Nigeria at 15 and 20, no parents, no relatives, being thrown in to school in a somewhat foreign language, living in an unfurnished basement apartment in a country where the sun only shines 8 hours a day instead of the 12 you are used to?  Winter is coming, and they have no clothes, have never worn winter clothes before. Somebody needs to do something!

We went to a second similarly bare apartment: a couch and no chairs.  A card table for a dining table and four folding chairs.  This young couples has a 7 year old and a 2 year old. The father does most of the talking. He has a million questions, I can tell, but he holds back. He asks if he can call me later. The 7 year old sits at the table reading a book outloud, in English.  She is going to be okay.  The 2 year old will know nothing but Fargo.  The parents–it will be a tough, tough transition.

Whenever I meet these newly arrived families, my heart races.  They’ve come from fire only to land in ice and fire. They are living in a state of emergency and I have to go to work tomorrow, pretend like nothing happened, re-assure myself that they will be okay until Saturday.  And of course they will be. But I’d like to do something, and I’d like to find 50 other people who would do something, because helping doesn’t take so much effort and the rewards are great on both ends.


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