Each year, as late November rolls around and Thanksgiving and Christmas appear around the corner, we experience being truly thankful for all that we have received. We also have the opportunity to recognize what it means to give generously, and from the heart.
Recently I learned about one such act of generous giving.
Ray and Linda Miller first heard about the ministry of welcoming refugees during a class on Immigration and Refugees held at their church, sponsored by the United Methodist Women. They were deeply inspired by what they learned about the plight of displaced people around the world fleeing war and coming to the U.S. with so little. So, they reached out to CWS partner Community Refugee and Immigration Services, or CRIS, to see how they could help. Soon after, their church, Scioto Ridge UMC, began partnering with CRIS in refugee resettlement ministry.
As Ray and Linda began to work directly with refugees they noticed just how hard life in Columbus was without a car. In response to this Ray developed a mantra of sorts: “Our grey car would be perfect for a refugee family. I wish we could give it away.”
Throughout this time Ray had been battling leukemia. And sadly, in June of 2014 his battle came to an end, and he passed on.
A few months later, in honor of Ray and inspired by their shared passion for helping refugees, Linda decided to donate the “grey car” to CRIS. She requested that the car be given to a refugee family struggling with transportation needs.
That family turned out to be Warris and Sharlotte Enayat and their three children, Melissa, Ivan, and Eshbin who had arrived as refugees nearly a year earlier from Pakistan. In Pakistan Warris had managed his very own shop with many years of experience in auto body repair work. An inability to travel far distances in Columbus, however, landed him a job in a neighborhood grocery store, cutting fish.
Without question this gift of the Miller’s car made a huge impact in the lives of the entire Enayat family. Within two weeks, Warris was able to land a full-time permanent position at an auto body shop in south Columbus with good wages and benefits.
But beyond the immediate and tangible impact, this generous gift meant something much more.
There is a theory that the final mark of integration for resettled refugees in a new home is a feeling of belonging. And beyond the tangible impact, this generous gift meant just that: It meant Warris could find meaningful work; it meant that the family could travel freely from place to place to place; that the children could be dropped off and picked up at school; and that the family could drive to church. This gift from the heart was one that communicated a sense of belonging.
During this holiday season, may we all give, and receive from the heart. And may we all catch a glimpse of what it feels like to belong.
Joya Colon-Berezin is the Ecumenical Relations Coordinator for CWS’s Immigration and Refugee Program.