Friday, May 18, 2012

I have to stop asking them . . .

I have an ESL teaching gig where I advise upper level students on options available to them for further education.  From time to time when I was a classroom teacher and even now in this advising role, the students wind up sharing bits and pieces of themselves or their story with me.  Their stories are often sad: the family they left behind, their love for their homeland, their worry over finding work here, the ugliness that has been done to them by "good" Americans.  There are also stories of gratitude and of hope, but it is the former that seems to wedge it's way under a corner of my heart and stay there.

I carry these bits and pieces with me for several days, thinking about them, praying for them, wondering about the injustice of it all, thinking about what I could do for them.

I came home tonight after hearing another one of these stories.  A Haitian man who was an electrician in Haiti with 14 years experience, and a wife and five children.  He is stuck here, now.  He cannot legally work and he cannot save money to send home to his family.  The immigration services tell him that his paperwork is being processed and he feels optimistic that he will hear from him any day.  In the meantime, he takes English class in our program and also does an online grammar class on the computer.  He told me that he cannot sleep at night because he is so worried about his children.  Even if he takes Tylenol PM he cannot sleep.  He worked for two weeks doing manual labor for an "American man" who wouldn't pay him until the end of the two weeks, and then paid him a little over $3 an hour.

I listened, told him how sad it was that he was taken advantage of, and suggested he get a notebook and try writing down the things he is worried about and maybe it will help him sleep better.  He said that he will do what he can and he knows that God will take care of his family.  He is Catholic and goes to Mass every Sunday.  When we parted, I told him that I would pray for him and his family.

I have to stop asking them about themselves and try to just make meaningless polite conversation instead.  It's hard for me to carry these things around with me.  But in the meantime, I will pray for comfort and peace for this man and his family.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I know the feeling, but I can't not hear these stories. The other day a student asked for help figuring out where her child should enroll for college. One of the schools, a local for-profit school told her they'd "offer" to give her a loan at 15% interest. This is a family that qualifies for a full Pell Grant and could go to the local community college tuition free for two years and then transfer to any MD.

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