The Resilience of Refugees (And Mommy Groups)

A young family made it to Chicago from Aleppo, Syria, after years of terror and flight and, surely, despair. Lawyers and non-profits and churches and a mommy group all played a role.

The law is resilient. The scene at O’Hare airport when the family arrived was lawyer-heavy. About a dozen rectangular folding tables pushed together in rows at the back of the international arrivals terminal, staffed by lawyers holding signs offering help for anyone whose family had been stopped upon entry. Boxes of takeout purchased for the lawyers by the mommy group were strewn around.

Non-profits are resilient. RefugeeOne has the government contract in Chicago to resettle refugees. They train volunteers to co-sponsor families. They lawyer up. They face down the press. They deal with landlords and employers and schools.

Churches and mommy groups are resilient. The churches know how to do this, I think. Welcoming refugees is in our charter, and the scores of bespectacled, grey haired church ladies darting around the terminal, not holding signs, not gazing at the news cameras, but arranging drivers and welcoming volunteers suggests they’re in this for the long haul.

The mommy group is different. That’s a product of social media almost entirely, and there is no reason for them to voluntarily fight through a refugee resettlement process rather than network and arrange playdates. But they did do that. And they’re only just starting. Many of them (like my spouse) were jolted into action on this by the results of the presidential election, which makes me wonder if the best thing for the civic fabric isn’t for it to be strained and pulled at. That nearly every consequential person in the arrival terminal last night was a woman, many with a child at their heels, makes me believe the President does not know what he hath wrought.

Parents are resilient. The mother and father who arrived last night with their 18 month old are in their early 20’s. I couldn’t help recalling as we waited in the terminal that the last time I saw the inside of the international arrivals terminal at O’Hare was in the spring of 1999, when I was 23 and passing through on my way home to Kansas City after a year of volunteer service abroad. I had only my bags and a sprained ankle, not a toddler. And I was returning home, not fleeing it. Still, that arrival lives in my memory as one of the most stressful and emotional experiences of my life.

The courage and strength of these young parents, one an accountant and the other a literature student, makes me hopeful for them and for the country they now will call home.

Resilience, people. The refugees, mommy groups, churches, non-profits, and law have it in spades. We need all of it we can get right now.

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One thought on “The Resilience of Refugees (And Mommy Groups)

  1. Thank you – tell all the mommies thank you – I sent this to the family that we took care of last year -he was an exchange student of mine that made his way back into our arms last year thanks to some incredible people at the American Embassy and the Obama administration…he was moved by your words and actions…and wants you to know that he and his wife send their thank you’s too.

    You and Merideth are the best and you make me very proud to be your aunt.

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