Thursday, August 20, 2009

Alone in the World

I talked today with one of the students in the ESL class of senior immigrant/refugee I teach every week. He is from Burundi. He is 66 years old. He has no living relatives, not here and not back home. No parents, no children, no wife, no brothers, no sisters, no aunts or uncles, no cousins. No one. He lives here in an apartment by himself. He speaks virtually no English. He arrives to class alone, sits alone, leaves alone.

A young high school student from Congo who volunteers with us translated for our conversation. I couldn't help shaking my head. The Congolese student did the same. The two of them chatted for a while after I had to go do something else. I was glad they were talking.

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be completely alone in the world? Not just to be separated from your family by oceans and continents, but to have no living relatives anywhere? Consider it. Really take a moment and try to imagine what this might be like. When I do, a feeling of panic sets in, a pressure in my chest.

This Burundian man comes every week and participates in class. He always smiles at me. I saw him two weeks ago at the main office of the nonprofit where I volunteer. His face lit up when I waved at him. Who does he eat with at night? Who does he talk to on the bus? How does he spend his days? What does he dream about when he sleeps? What happened to him to get him to Oregon? What was going through his mind as he sat during his long journey here? What does he think of Americans? What was his favorite game to play as a small boy? Where did his family go? Can I adopt him too?

15 comments:

Staci said...

Yes - adopt him! Abe would get another granddaddy out of the deal:)

HeidiD in CT said...

Oh my, I have a new hole in my heart and lump in my throat. The only thing making it better is knowing that you probably make his life infinitely happier every time he sees you. That's a special gift.

The Albertsons said...

so, you are his person now.
you've been given a special role... it will be interesting to see how it unfolds, but to know that you can be a light in his life... how incredible. wow. I'm hungry to know more about him, too...

Ladybugs appear said...

powerful.

More Dorrs said...

This post made me cry last night (granted, I was already in a fragile state...)...thank you for reminding me to be thankful for the things I do have in my life.

I have seen no greater strength than that of a true refugee -- a person without a home, in a strange place, missing pieces, or even all, of their former life. Pieces they will never get back. I have learned many things from these folks, and I learn something new with each new refugee I meet. Thank you for sharing this man's story...I hope you have the opportunity to stay a part of it.

-b

The Zimmers said...

He has you. The one who waives. Who spends time talking with him-no matter how short it may be. Who thinks about him. Who cares for him. Who considers him. Who hopes for him. Who loves him as best you know how. And, because of this post, he has all of us. Thoughtful. You are so thoughtful.

msl said...

Becca's right, you are his person now. How lucky for you both!

Fiona said...

Baby D's grandma here.. This story really grabbed me. and I'm so thankful he found you because your heart is open. I'm praying for him and for you.

courtney rose said...

I am SO glad you have this gig.

Emma said...

It sounds like you have already started to adopt him.

Anonymous said...

Hi there! My name is Kim and I stumbled upon these adoption blogs after clicking on a list of blogs read by a friend of mine on her blog. You and your husband seem like two of the coolest people...ever. I find myself checking up on your blog to see how adorable Abe is doing. You word things so well and it is so refreshing to hear about such good people as yourselves! I am a teacher and wish that all of my students could be so lucky to have parents like you guys. I never comment, but I had to this time. I can't wait to hear how this unfolds. You've obviously already put a smile on his face. Thank you so much for sharing. Your blog makes me want to be a better person and parent to my own children. Thanks so much!

Kim from Michigan

Mark and Heidi said...

Goodness, that is so sad and you sound like a special person. Why haven't I been reading your blog?!?!

Heidi

paige said...

Sounds like he needs a dinner invitation?
Sometimes, we don't realize how lucky we actually are--sounds like he's a gift to you, as much as you're a gift to him.

Amy B. said...

Wow, Lori. What a humbling and extraordinary realization. I can't imagine his pain, but what a triumphant spirit he must have to be attending ESL classes and still be moving forward.

Anonymous said...

I hope you have the chance to learn the answers to your questions. So interesting you wrote this as I have been feeling this urge to give some time and you have inspired me to find a friend like this...