Refugee students have taught me that life is something to be grabbed, enjoyed, shared, and be grateful for

Learning cheerfulness and gratitude from refugees
Jon Schoenbock at clasroom desk circa 1989

Để vinh danh ngày tị nạn thế giới 2017: The most important lesson my refugee students have taught me is that no matter the difficulties one faces, life is something to be grabbed, enjoyed, shared, and be grateful for

I have been an ESL teacher since 1979, and in most of those years, most of my students have been refugees. They have ranged in age from first grade to seventy years old, although the majority were teenagers since, for twenty-seven of my teaching years, I was at Washington High School in Milwaukee. My students have come from every continent, but most of them have been from Southeast Asia and from Africa. And despite the variety in age, ngôn ngữ, tôn giáo, or country of origin, they have shared some common traits: cheerfulness and gratitude.

Cheerfulness and gratitude

The most impressive common trait is an unflagging sense of cheerfulness and gratitude. I can’t remember a grouchy or whiny refugee. This is a constantly humbling experience since I have never known hunger or persecution or fear for my life, yet I complain all the time. And the things I complain about seem insignificant to the problems that these refugees face.

In most of the schools I’ve taught at, which include many lower-income Milwaukee schools, refugees were surely among the poorest of the students. Many of the families I encountered came to the United States with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They had left behind their homes, gia đình và bạn bè, their language, their livelihood, and anything that was familiar to them. They had lost family members to war. Yet they were grateful for every day and opportunity. They were able to be aware of what they had rather than on what they didn’t have and have taught me to try to do the same.

In the last few years, I have also taught adult refugees. Unlike my younger school-age students, some of these adults have been disabled, either blind or having lost a limb usually due to war-related injuries. Một lần nữa, despite the added difficulties that disability brings to life (I myself am mildly disabled), these students have never complained. They are grateful and cheerful and express this daily.

I once brought a sprig of fresh holly to a class of adult refugees from Burma. One of those students was blind from stepping on an IED. I gave him the holly and he smiled and said, “It smells so green!” This simple statement in the bleak days of winter showed me that I have much more than I realized.

Sacrifices and joie de vivre

In my first year or two of teaching adults, I met some of the parents of the very students whom I had taught at Washington High. The high schoolers came to school with newer clothes while the parents came to school wearing used clothes. The parents were obviously sacrificing everything for their children. Thực tế, the very act of leaving their home in order to improve the lives of their children may have been a great sacrifice. So another common trait among the refugees I’ve encountered is one of shared sacrifice.

A final trait refugees have is the ability to laugh at themselves. Every year when I ask what they usually eat at home, one of them will inevitably say, “I eat a kitchen” (meaning chicken). As soon as they realize their mistake, they join in laughing with the rest of the class. So they seem to have a general joie de vivre despite the current or past trauma and tragedy of their lives. Do đó, perhaps the most important lesson my refugee students have taught me is that no matter the difficulties one faces, life is something to be grabbed, enjoyed, shared, and be grateful for. It is a gift too precious to be squandered.

Để vinh danh ngày tị nạn thế giới 2017, trực tuyến Trung tâm tị nạn đang thu thập các câu chuyện của những người tị nạn làm cuộc sống tốt hơn.

Trực tuyến Trung tâm tị nạn tin người mới làm cho đất nước của chúng tôi một nơi tốt hơn. Tái định cư người tị nạn không phải là chỉ đạo đức hoặc đạo Đức điều để làm-nó mang lại lợi ích cho chúng tôi và các cộng đồng của chúng tôi là tốt. Những câu chuyện từ các cá nhân xung quanh Hiển thị quốc gia như thế nào biết, giảng dạy, làm việc với, và có lẽ quan trọng nhất, là bạn bè với, người tị nạn đã cải thiện cuộc sống của người Mỹ.

Người tị nạn trên thế giới ngày tháng 20, 2017

Tìm sự kiện trong cộng đồng của bạn và tìm hiểu làm thế nào bạn có thể ăn mừng ngày tị nạn thế giới 2017.

Về Jon Schoenbeck
Jon Schoenbeck has taught ESL in Milwaukee for 38 năm. When he’s not teaching, he enjoys spending time with his family, listening to classical music and opera (a distinction he’s never really understood), làm vườn, and reading.