Monday, January 30, 2017

To Be a Foreigner

I've been called 老外 “foreigner” for 20 years of my life. It's a significant part of my identity and probably always will be. Even though we've been living in the land of my birth again these past 1 ½ years, and my light-colored skin easily blends in with other Americans, it actually still feels kind of strange that no one sees me as an outsider here.

Because of my years of living overseas, I will always know what its like to be an outsider. To not know the language. To not get the jokes. And to be forever grateful for kind strangers who extended their hands to help. Who picked up my carrots from the ground when my thin plastic bag ripped on the way home from the market. Who smiled at my children. Who welcomed me and my family into their homes. Whether or not they had a good impression of America, we had friends who saw us as individuals. Who chose not to judge or label us. Who got to know who we were behind our big noses and beneath our skin that was a different color.

When I was the foreigner who was welcomed, I resolved that I too wanted to welcome foreigners—of a different culture and religion--in the same way that I was welcomed. Now "at home" in my birth country, I long to extend a hand of welcome to those who are called "foreigners" here.

One of the commands God gave the Israelites before they settled in their own land was: "You must not oppress foreigners. You know what it's like to be a foreigner, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt." (Exodus 23:9) 

President Trump's recent immigration and refugee bans seem so completely wrong, and I have felt heartsick over the implications.

I agree with what Pope Francis has said: “It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help.” All nations must focus on “service to the poorest, the sick (and) those who have abandoned their homelands in search of a better future for themselves and their families.”

“In putting ourselves at the service of the neediest,” Pope Francis said, “we will experience that we already are united; it is God’s mercy that unites us.”

May this old song by Neil Diamond, a favorite of our family, be true of our nation once again:

We've been traveling far
Without a home
But not without a star

Only want to be free
We huddle close
Hang on to a dream

On the boats and on the planes
They're coming to America
Never looking back again
They're coming to America

Home, don't it seem so far away
Oh, we're traveling light today
In the eye of the storm
In the eye of the storm

Home, to a new and a shiny place
Make our bed, and we'll say our grace
Freedom's light burning warm
Freedom's light burning warm

Everywhere around the world
They're coming to America
Every time that flag's unfurled
They're coming to America

Got a dream to take them there
They're coming to America
Got a dream they've come to share
They're coming to America

They're coming to America (x4)
Today, today, today, today, today

My country 'tis of thee
Sweet land of liberty
Of thee I sing
Of thee I sing


  1. Here we are called "toubab", which is the Wolof word for foreigner. Always knowing what it is like to be the outsider. But, in God's grace, being welcomed in. Thankful for those welcoming moments!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...