Knowing a refugee has made me a better person

immigrant and refugee baby showers
Lynley and Laurette

In honor of World Refugee Day 2017: Knowing a refugee has made me a better person

I have been giving baby showers to refugees and immigrants for about three and a half years now.

One day I got an email about a young refugee couple who had recently arrived from Congo. The Congolese woman had recently given birth to a baby boy. Not long after receiving the email, I found myself on the front porch of Laurette and Prince’s apartment. After briefly knocking on the door, I was greeted by a woman with the most beautiful smile. I introduced myself and she welcomed me into her home. I got to meet her son who had the most gorgeous chunky cheeks. Laurette expressed so much gratitude for the baby items that I gave her, but what really struck me was her generosity. It had not been more than five minutes into my visit when she started to collect baby items that she already had and did not need anymore, she told me to please give them to other women in need.

This was January 2016, and our friendship continues today.

Laurette and her husband Prince started a worship service that is done in both Swahili and English; the church recently celebrated its one-year anniversary.

My children and husband have become close to the family as well and we have shared meals at each other’s homes. One evening our family was invited over for a traditional Congolese meal. My children do not have the most eclectic taste buds and were nervous about what they would be served, but they did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings. We walked in the house and the kitchen stove was filled with pots and pans of various delicious dishes. Unfortunately, minutes before our family of five knocked on the door, their stove had malfunctioned and after a few sparks and puffs of smoke it died. I cannot imagine how frustrating this must have been. Instead of getting mad or frustrated that dinner would be delayed indefinitely, Prince simply grabbed his keys and asked my husband to drive with him. “Where are we going?” my husband asked. Prince answered, “To pick up a pizza.” Needless to say, the kids were thrilled and we had a wonderful time despite the setback.

Getting to know Laurette and her family has been such a privilege. They are kind and hardworking. I have listened to Laurette and her husband talk about their goals and have seen them reach them. They continue to put their faith first and slowly work towards achieving their dreams. For years I have thought about going to graduate school. However, my biggest obstacle has always been myself.

Laurette and other refugees that I have had the privilege to call friends have inspired me to achieve my dreams.

I am a better wife, friend, and mother for knowing them. My children have learned that the world is bigger than their little circle and that showing compassion and love sometimes means going outside of your comfort zone. Life is about connections and when we break out of our bubble to choose love over fear, we all win.

In honor of World Refugee Day 2017, the Refugee Center Online is collecting stories of how refugees make our lives better.

The Refugee Center Online believes newcomers make our country a better place. Refugee resettlement is not just the moral or ethical thing to do – it benefits us and our communities as well. These stories from individuals around the country show how knowing, teaching, working with, and perhaps most importantly, being friends with, refugees have improved the lives of Americans.

Refugees shaking hands

World Refugee Day June 20, 2017

Find events in your community and learn how you can celebrate World Refugee Day 2017.

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About Lynley SanGeorge

I grew up in a culturally rich city: Miami’s diversity sparked my appreciation and curiosity about other cultures. My husband and I currently make our home in North Carolina and we have three children. I worked as a teacher of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) for about five years and recently went back to school to pursue a graduate degree in Clinical Social Work. In my free time I love to read, spend time with my family, and travel.