The last few weeks here at the Gregson household, have been busy ones, and busyness after two years of such immense stillness feels, well, odd. The root of this hive like frenzy, the queen at the center of it all, beckoning people from all over this little town we call home, has been none other than my lovely wife, Sarah. The shortest version of the long story is as follows: Refugees from Afghanistan, a few families, a few kids, about sixteen people in total, were on their way to beginning a new life here in Helena, and due to about a thousand extenuating circumstances, many you’ve seen televised on the nightly news, many you’ve heard about in articles, and many you have quite literally no idea how harrowing and heartbreaking and horrible, they are coming here with absolutely nothing but the clothes on their backs. These are beautiful people, wonderful families with lives and histories so very well established in their home country, homeowners, doctors, engineers, husbands, wives, 2 year old children, elementary school aged kids with friends and routines and toys and books and favorite pieces of heirloom furniture, all jumping on final flights out before the Taliban overtook the airports. These are people coming to a foreign place that’s just a sliver under 89% white, a place that I am ashamed to say has had its racist proclivities rush to the surface in the last half decade, a place that is fiercely “nativist” despite the glaring irony that the true natives to this wonderful land are sequestered away onto tiny reservations instead of gilded country clubs and ski villages and log cabins the size of a Costco. Phew, that was a mouthful of truth and one I’m happy to spill. I’m fired up, as you can tell, and that ain’t changing after what I’ve seen, heard, and gotten even more fired up about during this process.
At any rate, Sarah put out a call for donations for these beautiful people, and I will say this: Despite the group of assholes that stood outside our grocery stores with giant signs proclaiming “White Lives Matter,” despite the same and more assholes showing up at town hall meetings yelling about how these 16 Afghan refugees are going to be pushing the white race out of Montana (I’m sorry, I have to pause here and just highlight the absolute fucking absurdity of this, and the stupidity of people who believe things like this), despite all this, the response was positively uplifting, heartwarming, and wonderful. In the span of only a week or so, we had so many donations our entire basement was overflowing. We had uHaul’s worth of furniture, clothes, toys, books, winter gear, cribs, strollers, microwaves, TVs, and just about everything else you can imagine. I’ve never been more in awe, or more proud of anyone, as I was watching Sarah organize it all, figure out what else was needed, and it inspired me at a depth not often reached. We got everything delivered, we spent an entire Saturday loading things into apartments that were donated for their use, Sarah and my Mom spent a morning in masks painting one and prepping it, we hauled heavy oak furniture up three flights of stairs, and I will say this with absolute honesty: We’ve never been happier doing anything. To hell with those that protested, to hell with their ridiculous signs, this is what we should all be doing with our extra time, hell, with whatever time we do have. Helping, because dammit, everyone, everyone, deserves help.
These people coming from a country that has known little else but war for years and years and years, are brave in a way so many of us will never understand. The things they have faced, and face still in the form of so much trauma they carried inside themselves coming here, are burdens we cannot even fathom, and their courage is all they hold as they begin a new life in a new state, in a new country so far from anything even remotely familiar. More, they are starting these lives knowing that so many people do not wish them to be doing so, knowing they are facing opposition simply for the country of their origin, for the god they pray to, for the language they speak that we do not. I am in awe of this courage, and it really shook me thinking about all they face, all the hurdles, all the roadblocks to even beginning here. Muslims have fallen into such an unbelievably unfortunate reputation that is so completely unfounded. This religion is a gentle one, these people are gentle people, they want kindness, they give it in droves, they want peace, and they hope for it as we do. What if we, the collective we of these United States, were judged by the fringe beliefs and atrocious acts of our most insanely and ignorantly fervent and misguided white citizens? What if Christianity was judged by every fanatic that bombed a church or burned a cross or fired an assault rifle into innocent people? My goodness, this is an entire conversation for another time, but stop, stop and think what that says.
Nevertheless, these weeks helping these people, these weeks watching Sarah do what she is so born to do, help others in such beautiful ways, has shown me so much of what courage is, what bravery looks like, what tolerance, and hope, and peace, and love, can and should be. If we all stopped, looked at this world through these people’s eyes, I cannot help but feel like we would all be better off, like we’d all do a lot more helping, a lot less complaining, and a wave of understanding would once again wash over. I think we need to stop and think how we all are seen on a global scale, and I think we all can do so much to help improve that. I think we can make small changes at local levels that lead to great shifts, and I think those small changes can have such huge benefits for those at our local level. What a beautiful thing.
My only advice to close this essay is this, and it is simple: Look into the status of any refugees possibly coming to your state or town, look into the help you can give any group of any people less fortunate that battle things we do not know. Give help where you can, how you can, and ask for nothing in return. Give because if we all gave, no one would need, no one would worry where their next sleep would come, when their bellies would once again feel full.
I don’t know, this is a rant and a ramble of an essay, probably meandering and that’s ok with me. I am so passionate about this, so inspired about helping others, I cannot help but spew out thoughts like blizzard snow when I get going. Add to that fire the kindling of the racist morons in my hometown, it’s a bonfire you’ll see, a Signal Fire that will burn for miles and miles. I hope you see it, I hope it reminds you to light your own. I hope.
Bravely they arrive
new lives in a distant land,
hoping for a peace.