Home by Warsan Shire
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well…
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i've become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here
Click here to read the complete version of this magnificent poem: https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/home-433/
I had intended to write a sentimental piece on Home. Then recent events forced me to confront my attachment to Home and recognize that hundreds of thousands of human beings in our world do not even have a Home to return to! So this month's blog has become an invitation to bear witness to all those Displaced Persons around the globe, here and now, as well as our known and unknown ancestors who were forced to flee the mouth of the shark. Let us open our hearts to their stories. Let us listen deeply to their stories and take the risk of having our lives changed in that listening. Let us bless these displaced persons, or whatever name of compassion you call them, in any way we are able. Here are a few stories from some friends:
My friend “B” immigrated to America from Eastern Europe 12 years ago with her abusive alcoholic husband and three daughters, not knowing any English. She said it was as if she were blind, deaf, and dumb. She was sexually assaulted by the immigration authorities during a so-called medical examination. She says she had no interest in the “American Dream.” She only wanted a better life for her girls whose future in the old country promised to be the same drudgery and servitude to men all women faced there. “B” says the first five years here were like she was imprisoned. The family lived in her mother in-law’s basement where they were allowed one shower a week and two hot cooked meals a week (too expensive, don't ya know). She had to drive her drunk spouse everywhere since he’d lost his license. He did all he could to sabotage her attempts to learn English. Though a degreed accountant in her home country, she worked cleaning houses, saving and borrowing money to learn English at an excruciatingly slow pace. Today through sheer determination, B is divorced, her daughters are well educated and in good jobs and happy relationships. She is building her own successful business that uses her excellent artistic talents and warm ways to attract clients. It's hard work but emotionally satisfying to be creating her own free life at long last.
My precious sister-friend "C" emigrated from Korea with advanced degrees in Nutrition. She worked 60 hours a week in a dry cleaner helping her husband finish seminary. Some of her customers treated her like she was their servant or worse, invisible. She learned English and raised her four stepsons to be fine men and excellent cooks. She is an amazing resourceful entrepreneur who has created several businesses. I have never met a kinder, gentler, more forgiving human being than "C." She embodies the message of the Christian gospel.
And then there’s my octogenarian friend “E” who, at the urging of her adult children (they wanted more security for their parents), recently relocated across the country, leaving the community they’d lived in for most of their married lives. After hearing how difficult the adjustment to the new community has been, another friend called her “a displaced person.” Soon after this stressful move, "E" and a daughter made a pilgrimage to Poland to visit the places her father’s family had lived. She shared what she'd seen and heard, stories of bone chilling Nazi era atrocities, tales of roads paved with headstones from Jewish graves, of how all the residents of her ancestors’ town were efficiently massacred and buried in the village cemetery. There were no surviving members from this branch of her family, an all too common story. "E" returned horrified, in shock, bereft, emptied, and wept for days and days.
"E", a displaced person, carries the memories of countless others who were lost, destroyed. How many of us are tempted to turn away from those who are carrying stories? How many of us will never hear the tales of people who've fled unspeakable conditions, or the stories of the human beings who did not escape the mouth of the shark?
And yet here we are today, listening to ignorant politicians and their ignorant followers around the world lose sight of their humanity. These are people who judge without mercy, people who call other human beings criminals or animals simply because they have fled with their children in desperation from chaos, famine, rape, war, seeking some semblance of safety and security.
What is your migrant/immigrant/refugee story? Who do you know who has fled the mouth of the shark? Have you had to?