Yesterday I went to the house of one of the refugee girls, who I am working with, to speak to her parents. Her dad is Ethiopian and her mom is Eritrean. I originally went to make plans as to what time I will pick up Rivkah each morning, but I ended up staying for much longer…
…They live in a TINY 2 room apartment, all 6 of them. There are 4 children, all under the age of 10. Rivkah is the 2nd oldest at 7. She has an older brother, 10 yrs old, a younger one, 4 yr. old and a 6 month old baby sister. And they all live in that 2 room apartment.
One room consists of 2 beds and a couch with a couple plastic chairs while the other has 2 more beds, leading into the kitchen (which is technically the same room). There is a ridiculously small bathroom, which they all must share. There is no art on the walls, no decorations brightening the place, and certainly no “extras” as we all tend to have in our lives. They are all ‘refugee status’, but haven’t been given work visas yet. This is the main concern of her dad, as he cannot provide for his family. Looking around, my heart is breaking, but I must remain positive for them all. They are beyond poor, not even having diapers for the baby.
YET, the first thing Rivkah’s mom did when I entered her place was offer me coffee. She barely has enough food in the house to feed her 4 children, but she is concerned about my well-being and me feeling welcomed. At this point I was almost in tears, thinking about this gesture of hospitality.
As I left their humble abode, I will admit I felt ashamed, angry, and sad. Ashamed for all the times I complained about where I live, what I don’t have, and how difficult life can be. Angry at how society perceives the African Refugees in Israel and how they are treated on a daily basis. And Sad because of the situation, not only that they were in, but for the other 20,000+ families who were in the same boat.
What I walked away with yesterday was this: It doesn’t matter how much you have or don’t have. It doesn’t matter how much money is in your pocket or in your bank account. It’s not about what car you drive or the size of your house.
It’s all about how you treat others. Years from now the details of their apartment will probably be forgotten, but I will never forget how I was treated and welcomed by them.
A lesson I need to constantly remind myself of….