I finally did it.
After months of debating with myself, letting fear win the argument, shirking away from something potentially incredible…I finally womaned up and joined some coworkers on their weekly visit to a hotel where nearly 200 refugees live. My coworkers had been visiting for months, so they had pre-established relationships. I was just along for the ride.
As it was Ramadan, many of the Muslim residents were in their rooms sleeping until sundown when the evening meal would be served. My coworkers knew which rooms some of their friends stayed in, so we wandered off to find them. I awkwardly followed behind to see how the visit worked.
We reached a certain door and knocked. The middle-aged woman who opened the door visibly brightened and perked at the sight of her friends. Hugs all around, she invited us into her small room. We sat on the floor, the only open space beside the bed. I drew a deep breath and hoped for some kind of way into the conversation.
After some pleasant talk, she turned to me and asked what I did. This is a question I’ve answered so many times that the answer is a natural instinct.
“I’m a journalist.”
She sat a bit straighter, her eyes widening a little. “I was journalist…in Syria.”
Okay, I did NOT see that coming. Yet, the connection was instant and strong. We were able to talk about different kinds of writing and why we did it. She said she only wrote for herself now, diary entries mostly. Back in Syria, she boldly wrote on topics that some journalists would shy away from because of their socially delicate nature. Yet, she wanted to voice the thoughts of those who may not be bold enough to do so themselves. Her family didn’t want her to be a journalist, yet she did it anyway.
She wasn’t professionally trained, but was now reading books on journalism. She wanted to learn, to become a better writer. She wanted to be “a serious journalist.”
I told her what I’d been told multiple times before” “If you say you are a writer, and you believe that you are, then you are a writer.”
Her smile was the most beautiful thing I’d seen that day.
During dinner she and I talked with one of my coworkers. While her English was incredible, she still stumbled over some things. When she didn’t understand what my coworker meant, she looked at me to simplify and explain. She knew that I could help her understand–and she’d just met me a couple hours ago!
Far too soon, it was time for us to go. Hotel visitor rules and all. As we were walking to the door, she looked at me and asked, “Will you come next week with them?”
That implied invitation is HUGE, people. In her culture, trust takes a long time to build and usually it requires a few visits before any kind of real connection is formed. When we got in the car, my friend Ell turned to me and said, “Hannah, she asked you to come back. That’s huge!”
There’s something about sharing a profession or passion that connects people. It doesn’t matter if there’s a massive age difference, cultural difference, language barrier…if two people find common ground, beautiful things happen.
And just think….all I had to do was step out of my comfort zone and be a friend to someone who’s been displaced from her home.
Are you hiding inside your comfort zone? Do you need to step out? Are you willing to put yourself out there for someone else?
Hannah, from the USA, has been serving as OM Ireland's journalist for two years. A trained writer, she loves sharing stories of people and their God-inspired life moments. She believes that everyone has a story worth telling, and it's a true joy to be the one to tell them.