I don’t have the answer on the Syrian refugee crisis. It is a complicated issue. Maybe my own story will shed some light one one angle of the debate. I don’t plan to address the elephant in the room — the fact some of these “starving refugees” look like strapping, seasoned soldiers and potential terrorists, because that is not a topic I feel qualified to discuss. But here is the OTHER problem I see with bringing refugees and illegal aliens into our communities.
For years I underwrote Christian Activities working retail jobs, and after one natural disaster in 1997, I was already in bad financial shape with no savings left, so I was ill prepared for a 2nd natural disaster in 2010. My house was gutted after the Nashville flood, and I had no place to go. My parents are gone, my brother is disabled and lost his own home in the flood. So I moved to a tiny Microtel room for 9 months while the possessions that survived the flood were packed out and the long process of rebuilding my house on limited funds began. I ran out of money, had to move back home with no heat, air, hot water or appliances (or even plumbing for a while but we won’t discuss that). When my little dog got sick, I didn’t have enough money left to pay for an emergency vet, so I lost my beloved pet. I couldn’t afford a cell phone or TV and was driving a 17-year-old Jeep in bad shape. I couldn’t replace appliances or repair my hot water heater. I could barely afford food, and had no medical or dental care.
I was posting these things in my Facebook updates. The interesting thing is NONE of the people I see posting on Facebook about how our Christian faith dictates that we must bring the Syrian refugees into our communities — NONE of them offered to help me, put me up, let me wash my clothes, or brought me or my dogs a meal when I was struggling.
So, is charity just for Syrian refugees, illegal aliens from Mexico and Africans with AIDS? Do you not have any hurting friends and neighbors who need your help where you live? Because I sure did and your friends in other disaster areas sure do. Clearly we should care about strangers and offer assistance when we can but how about those right here next to us that we allow to fall through the cracks every day? Have you seen how the sick and disabled veterans in your area live, for example??? Are you inviting them to come live with you? Why not? Because it would drain your resources? Because it might not be safe???
Before anyone starts pointing to the specks in the eyes of those of us who are very cautious about bringing Syrian refugees into our communities, maybe you should check to make sure that large plank in your own eye isn’t blocking your view of the hurting friends and neighbors with limited resources you are not helping. These disenfranchised in the community will suffer even more with an influx of new people draining resources. There is a limit on resources, aid, assistance. Do you know how quickly FEMA ran out of funds after the Nashville flood? I do. The funds were gone by the time I discovered my house would have to be gutted because so much water had wicked through the floors and walls.
Although I am still rebuilding, I am truly thankful for my blessings now and am reminded daily how blessed I am today. This is not about me — I simply want to make people aware that there are plenty of hurting people right here, right now, and we are not doing a very good job taking care of our own. And I don’t consider ubiquitous government handouts “taking care of our own.” We have friends, neighbors and family that need our care, and the Bible is clear that we should provide for our families and households first. I don’t think it is a stretch to say the people we sit next to, interact with, talk to on social media, our neighbors, those who live in our local area or who are “local” because we have an ongoing relationship with them — those are our immediate concern including widows, orphans, the disabled, the sick, and veterans.
There is also a time to offer assistance to people in other areas. But when we can’t or don’t take care of those in our own communities, we sure don’t have a good infrastructure to bring others in and offer them assistance — especially if we have to take aid away from our neighbors. How many of the homeless in your area did you offer aid to today? And I am not talking about a $1 newspaper donation. Have you brought any of the homeless off the streets to live with you? Why not? I am betting it is for some of the same reasons some of us are wary of the refugee situation. So don’t tell me it is fear or lack of love that makes me extremely cautious about the refugee situation. It is the same wisdom and discernment that tells me picking up a hitchhiker might not be the best idea.