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  • erinschrode

Finding Unity through Dinner

Dinner. Family. Unity.

I had the privilege of being invited to dinner at the home of newly resettled Syrian refugees — and only wish that President Trump, members of his Administration, elected officials at all levels of government, and every citizen took time to do the same. Food and facetime are transformative.

A mother, father, and four magnificent kids welcomed me like one of their own – seated together on the floor of their living room around the most exquisite homemade bountiful feast, including my favorite tangy Arabic salad. We exchanged stories of a Syria that is both a beautiful memory and horrific nightmare, of the refugee camps in Jordan, of tricky homework assignments (made easy by Students of Salaam tutors!), unexpected snow days, dreams of going to college and becoming dentists or radiographers, and hopes of a better future for all people of all backgrounds in all nations. I gleaned immense wisdom about humanity and culture, family and resilience, safety and belonging – and offered insight or advice when asked.

These human beings are magical souls. They have literally defied death to reach this country, living underground in Daraa as their city was leveled by bombs, fleeing Syria on foot under the cover of perilous darkness, staying in refugee camps in Jordan, being resettled in New Haven with only four of their children (those under the age of 18, while dozens of older siblings, spouses, and grandkids remain stranded in Syria or Jordan). Imagine being a mother, thousands of miles away, and losing all contact with your children and grandchildren when routine bombs devastate the little that is left of Daraa, while you are in a faraway place, repeatedly told you are not welcome and do not belong.

All this family wants is to return to their homeland, a safe homeland. When I probed about how we go about beginning to change the paradigm to end war, death and destruction, they pressed two things:

– No fly zones, such that the government cannot continue to decimate its own people by dropping bombs. – Safe zones for the displaced within Syria, which was in some draft of a Trump EO, but has since disappeared.

We philosophized, we cried, we laughed, we hugged, we ate (and ate and ate) until the wee hours of the night. We discovered common values and recognized human dignity in one other as one global family, here together in the United States of America at this moment in history. I feel blessed to have an inclusive, loving, wise new family — in New Haven or Daraa or wherever this journey of life may take us.


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