Today I received a belated Christmas present that really made my day. A big envelope arrived, and I wasn’t sure what it was first. Judging by the size, I thought maybe it was a calendar or wrapping paper, both of which I have received in the past after making donations to charities.
But when I opened it I got something altogether unexpected.
The envelope was full of thank-you letters handwritten by the students of a class I donated to through DonorsChoose.org. Some were embellished with curling borders or fancy handwriting; a couple had faces drawn on them. All started off with writing, ‘thank you.’ As I read through them, I grew teary-eyed almost immediately.
One of my oldest and dearest friends is a teacher, and last year she put in a request for some much-needed supplies for her classroom and students. It went out via social media and she met her goal. I felt really good knowing I had helped in part with my donation. I never expected the students would help me in return.
I have been disheartened so much lately over the news– the institution of an immigration policy I don’t agree with, and the danger to the environment I feel looming with all the moves toward deregulation, among other things–that I was grateful beyond words to receive the students’ letters. It felt like such a gift.
Reading their words, looking at the pictures they drew, put faces and names to the students I helped.
They made me think of all the immigrants (faceless people, to some) now banned from this country. I thought of all the men, women, and children trapped overseas, or separated from their families, or fleeing a war-torn country to find a better life. I thought, too, of all the people who had found that life here already over the last century or so.
What letters would they write, if they could? What stories would they tell? Some would be full of thank-you’s, no doubt, from people who had found new hope here. But many or most now would likely be angry and/or heart-breaking.
I thought if the people who instituted the ban and supported it, those who were afraid of the immigrants coming to the U.S., could see their faces, hear their words and stories, see them as other people in need of help, maybe that would make a difference. I thought if this was happening to people they actually knew, maybe that would be enough to change their minds.
Because it is an easy thing, I think, to deny help to something or someone far away, unknown, untouchable, and a lot harder to deny it to the known, to the touchable.
I have no answers, only hope that the ban’s instituters and supporters will begin to see the immigrants as other people, not as just religions, or skin colors, or nationalities. I know the letters I received from the students today made them real for me, made them known and touchable, brought me to tears with their words of gratitude. I only wish I could pass that feeling on to those in power, knowing how good it feels to have helped other people instead of fearing them.