Monday, October 16, 2017

What I Learned about Empathy Last Night

Last night in the English as Second Language that another teacher and I conduct at church, we had a class of six.  One Chinese young woman who is here because her husband works for an American company with offices here.  One Iranian man who "won the lottery" to get a visas to emigrate to the U.S.  (This is literally true, a fact most people in the U.S. don't know about.  I had heard about it on This American Life, and lo and behold, one of my ESL students is a lottery winner!)  Two Sudanese refugees who have had unspeakable experiences yet come to class with wide smiles.  One Sudanese Momma who keeps them in line and calls them "brother." One young Iraqi woman, whom I find stunningly beautiful, whose husband worked for the U.S. military and accompanied him here. 

My co-teacher brought reading material about the presidential inaugural, and we had a discussion about American government and politics. The article mentioned "Hail to the Chief" so I played it on my phone. Then each of them found their national anthems of their countries on their phones (thanks to YouTube) and we listened. 

The Chinese woman sang to hers.  The Sudanese smiled, with pride. They smile a lot.

Badeia, the young Iraqi woman, the one whose name means beautiful flower, began to cry.

Of course.  Why shouldn't she?  Her family is still there.  She's in this strange country where woman walk around half naked, where there are so many different types of people. where almost everyone is a different religion.  What was she thinking of? Whose faces was she seeing? How many family members were lost to her?  What had happened to her beautiful country of historical, ancient import?

It was a moment I will never forget. 

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