I wasn't expecting the story that I read, or to feel everything that I felt as I read it. Although all the books that I have read so far this year have had an impact on me, I will say that I think this one is going to be one of my top, even as I continue reading.
I struggle with social media and people that I love because I feel like they do not understand the depth of pain and sacrifice that it takes for a refugee family to move to another place and start life over again. Even for me that has lived in other countries, I was able to take all of my stuff, I had people that spoke my language on the airplane with me, and waiting for me when I landed. I may have looked different from those in the country I found myself in, but I wasn't most of the time ridiculed or threatened because of it. Harassment is different than being scared for my life.
I feel like I could write forever about everything that I took from Sandra's story. If you are reading this blog, please read her book.
Some things that I will take away from this:
*Even though I think I know a lot about refugees and their struggles, I don't. I have never had to be a refugee, especially never a refugee in America. I will never assume that I know what they are going through or have gone through.
*When I meet someone that has gone through escaping a war, I am not going to ask them about the war, like it is some amazing event. If they want to tell me, Great! But if they don't then I am just going to be their friend, without needing to know all about their trauma.
*People want to come to America because they see the glamour, and hear that America is perfect. The poverty, the racism, the problems aren't what they think that they will find when they get here.
*Sandra is one of the most amazing women we have in this world, in our country. I am thankful to know her story, and hope that I am able to learn more.
Some of the quotes from the book that impacted me:
"It was part of an unfortunate culture, mainly in the villages, in which young men would kidnap a girl, rape her, and then marry her. The rape is committed so that the girl is too ashamed to go back home, or so that her family won't ask for her back. Hundreds, if not thousands, or girls have been married this way. It is one of the reasons why I think my parents were so passionate about educating girls, so that we could learn that no one can take away our worth." -page 39
If only every parent in every village was able to think this way. If only men were brought up to see the worth of every woman. It is time to make a change. No matter the culture, rape should not be the norm.
"I knew the sounds of war before I knew how to do a cartwheel." -page 42
I can't even comprehend what it is like to be a child growing up in a war-torn land. As Americans we press people to not come to this country because you might be a murderer. But really? There are kids growing up in war. Their are kids, like Sandra that don't know security. Wouldn't you do whatever you could to get your kids out of a war-torn land? Wouldn't you?
"I understood for the first time how it felt to experience real poverty. To wash our clothes and clean the dishes, we would get water from a nearby pond. But the pond was polluted, so my mom needed to boil the water. For drinking water, sometimes Mom managed to get a jug of tap water from neighbors, or I would be dispatched to sit beneath a leaking pipe connected to another home. The pipe was at the bottom of a hill, and I would walk down there and huddle with other poor people from the neighborhood, collecting drips of water. There were a lot of desperate people waiting to get that water, including kids my age and mothers with babies. Arguments would erupt. It felt mortifying and also humbling to be among those people waiting for drips. I realized there were so many people struggling to survive. We were not the only ones." -page 93
We complain so much about the small things that are "wrong" about our life. How we suffer. Yet this description reminds me that I know nothing of want or need. I have always had food, clothing, shelter and safety. I have never lived without water. I have never even had to go anywhere to get water, except for when I was living overseas, but it was literally just a short walk away from my apartment, and I could have gotten someone to get it for me if I needed to. I often complain about things going on in my life, but I truly should be thankful, because I know nothing of true hardship.
"The idea of beauty in America was new to me, and it was troublesome. The message I heard everywhere- from television, from people at school- was that I should exercise and eat healthy food so that I could stay skinny. Back home in Congo, we didn't really think about body size. Most people I knew were a healthy weight. And being skinny was not something a child aspired to be. I started to feel pressure to look like what America considered beautiful. My dad helped me navigate the turmoil. "
Until I read this part of the book, I didn't really understand how the American definition of beauty is so very different from the rest of the world. We grow up imagining beauty and defining it by what we see on TV or in the movies, because that is what our culture has defined it as. Weight, why are we so obsessed with it? Perhaps because we have more than what we need. In a world where you never want for anything, outside beauty seems to be what defines success and popularity.
There were so many more quotes and thoughts I had as I read this book. Mostly though I want to take her story to heart. I don't want to every get stuck lumping people together, and thinking that the only thing that I need to pay attention to is what happens within the borders of my country. There is SO much going on in the world. So much pain, and hurt. There are people here that need us to hear their stories. Not just assume we know them. To see past the images on TV. I hope that I never see past people. I hope that I can always look them in the eyes and take time to hear their truth, and let it change me.