Have you ever experienced something tragic unfolding before your eyes and were unsure of how to respond? The abrupt shock initially terrifying and difficult to comprehend and yet instilling a sense of urgency to take action to help?
Those that were closely following the heartbreaking developments in Afghanistan this August may recall the daunting images of people fleeing for their lives. Unsure of where they would go, many Afghan nationals urgently made their way to the Kabul airport in hopes of seeking refuge from looming violence they knew would soon come following the departure of American troops from the country. Images were widely circulated of children being handed off to U.S. troops by frightened parents, family members being separated amid the confusion that swiftly unfolded and some losing their lives as they clung to the military airplanes that took off from the airport.
As coverage of these shocking events took place, numerous questions transpired around the world including in our local community. Many who were disturbed by the images wondered how they could support Afghans who would be arriving locally.
At Tierra Vida, a collaboration between Afghan community residents, Nueva Esperanza Leadership Academy elementary students, and World Relief, the leading refugee resettlement agency in the Tri-Cities, blossomed.
During a conversation I had with the Mrs. Beck’s Servant Leadership class, students from the 3rd, 4th and 5th grade sought answers to countless questions they had. Why would something like this happen? What was extremism? What could they do to help newcomer immigrants feel safe? After the hour-long discussion about the importance of showing compassion and respecting each person’s experiences, the children shifted to decorating signs that had been drafted by community members and would be used by World Relief at the airport to welcome families.
Driven by their curious minds and done out of love, students poured their creativity onto the signs as they recognized these posts would be one of the first images that would be seen by everyone arriving and they wanted to express that they cared.
As I reflect on this shared experience of diverse community members coming together as one for the common good, I wonder what communities would be like if we let our childlike spirt lead the discussions we have about matters that seem complex yet can be easy to grasp if we allow ourselves to listen, learn and practice kindness.