Tonight, I need to say thank you.
Our dear friends from across the world leave in the morning. They board a bus and head out for American dreams in Columbus, Ohio. They take bags that look and smell so much like the ones we helped them to pull off of the carousel at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport nearly three years ago. They will hold a coffee urn, several china espresso cups, spices, and a coffee serving set. They will hold children’s clothing and a few beautiful outfits that will be worn on special occasions – birthdays, Christmas celebrations, etc . They will hold some American mementos picked up along the way, hopefully, too…maybe a book, probably a DVD, and likely a few pictures that they’ve taken during their time in Clarkston. I imagine they will hold the plastic sheets with images of Mary and baby Jesus that were their main apartment décor over the time we’ve known them.
I need to tell them Thank You, but our communication is still not clear enough for them to read this note. I weep because I cannot tell them the whole Thank You. A hug had to do. The small words “Thank You” had to be enough when we left them last week.
I need to tell them Thank You for their hearts – for their bravery and their fortitude and most of all for their sense of humor. The smiles and laughter that always embraced any mishap. Those are true gifts…ones I possess scarcely, but hope to possess more strongly.
I need to tell them Thank You for their children – for each precious soul who eagerly opened up their hearts to our own kids and helped to teach us all that communication is 99% not dependent on the spoken word.
I need to tell them Thank You for inviting us – for inviting us into their vulnerable spaces of child bearing and job searching and driving tests and school problems and neighbor love and pest control issues and acclimation to cold weather and semi-urban life.
I need to tell them Thank You for loving us – in their way. For continuing to offer us the third cup of coffee, even when our American selves were too busy to drink it, time and again. We seemed to always have to go – two hours in – after only two cups of artistic love.
I need to tell them Thank You for being our friends – for looking past our foibles and our pride and for welcoming us into their hearts as much as we hoped to welcome them into ours.
I need to tell them how much we will miss them. Not the idea of a refugee friend, not the “chance to serve,” not the family opportunity. THEM. We will miss them. We love them so much. They are our friends. We will miss them.
I need to tell them goodbye.
But I don’t want to.
Shalom, dear friends. May His peace be upon you.
Until we meet again…