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?