October 14, 2009

Today I met Harriet.


As I walked to the door of her large brick farmhouse, and raised my fist to begin knocking gently, the door opened. A petite woman with short brown hair and large oval glasses stood smiling under the wooden frame. There she was, in all of her glory: a brilliant, beautiful retired woman who is referred to around the world as “mom” by more people then I have fingers and toes. As I entered her beautiful aged home and walked through her living room into the kitchen, little did I know of the brilliant life that so frequently fills this ordinary looking space.

Harriet and her husband Ray greeted me warmly and we began chatting immediately as I took a seat at their kitchen table. We spoke for a while about their up and coming trip to Florida, and before long I had viewed an entire photo album of family members and warm-climate memories. We continued talking around the kitchen table and the topic changed slowly; we began to discuss Harriet’s involvement in refugee resettlement communities. As it just so happens, there are a plethora of people running around the world, all from different walks of life, who have at least one thing in common: they have all encountered the deep love and compassion of this wonderfully caring woman.

As I sat and listened to Harriet tell the stories of her friends and family, it was as if I could see her heart sitting plainly in front of me, beating on the wooden table. Stories of religious, political, and sexual discrimination. Stories of rape, violence, war and persecution. All of these stories, all connected to people with names, faces, families. All significant and beloved pieces of Harriet’s heart. What a joy it is, to sit down with another individual, so ready and able to articulate their passion and love for the world and the people in it.

We sat together for three hours. More stories came in the form of visitors; a man from India who came to the United States with his wife; a woman who was beaten in India, both of her arms broken in the name of religion.

I heard stories of people from Ghana, Iraq, Cameroon, Kosovo, China, Vietnam, and Congo. Stories of genital mutilation and human trafficking. Stories of fear, anger, and anxiety. All of these stories, found while sitting around a kitchen table in the middle of Pennsylvania.


Harriet, you are an incredible woman.

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