Sunday, was filled with an experience I have often experienced but rarely in my own country. I spent the day in strange apartment complexes, smelling interesting smells from foreign foods cooking, as I wandered around looking for the right apartment. After knocking on wrong doors I found my way to the right apartment. I slipped off my shoes and stepped over a pile of a dozen or so pairs of shoes to finally enter one of my student’s apartments. I sat on the ground as instructed, gladly accepted my tea and then sat, smiled awkwardly and tried to have a conversation through broken English.
I have had this experience many times, this is the first time I did it while delivering Christmas trees. Four days earlier when I asked my Muslim refugee students if they would like Christmas trees (we had a lot from a fundraiser we were doing) I expected the answer to be no. However, they were enthusiastic that their families did indeed want Christmas trees as many of them were spending their first Christmas in their new home.
This is an important part of our refugee students becoming American. Christmas is an important part of our culture, if we don’t want refugees becoming isolated including them into cultural seasons like this one is important. We want our students to feel welcome and including them in this season of generosity is just one small way to say that.