Highway Reflections


Immigrants Out! 

By Nell Green, The Off Ramp

This graffiti was painted alongside some road signs giving directions to various businesses and attractions. The collage of signs seemed to say, “For shopping and fun go this way. If you are an immigrant, go this way and get out!” 

My first thought upon reading it was, “I am an immigrant.” I was not living in my home country. I spoke the language but not without plenty of errors and a terrible accent. Yet, I knew the sign was not meant for me. And my heart broke for those who knew instinctively they were the targeted ones.  

Refugees do not leave their homes and loved ones because they want to. They leave because they have no other options. Whether it is violence, war, famine, persecution, or oppression the decision to leave is one of survival.

Once in a new place, distance separates them from their home culture and a different kind of distance separates from the host culture. Dress, language, celebrations, work and leisure habits create a divide that is seemingly impossible to bridge.  Yet, build bridges we must if we are to offer a gracious hospitality that welcomes the weary traumatized stranger. 

Bridges are built when we offer a smile rather than a frown when hearing a different language.  

Bridges are built when we welcome the stranger to our neighborhood with a kind word and perhaps a cup of tea. 

Bridges are built when we share customs or traditions, both ours and theirs.  

Bridges are built when we invite children to play together.  

Bridges are built when we exchange favorite recipes.  

Bridges are built when we learn more about our neighbor’s home country.  

Bridges are built when we listen with to the story of their journey. 

Bridges are built when we help with language acquisition.  

Bridges are built when we work towards acclimation and accommodation rather than assimilation. 

Bridges are built when we realize it is not about me or you; it is me AND you.   

On this World Refugee Day, let us commit to building bridges.