Do What You Can – But, Where to Begin?

I wish I were the kind of person who could open her home to a stranger. I wish I were even the kind of person who could open her home and pour her next door neighbor a cup of coffee. But, although I really do try to be generous both spiritually and materially, that kind of generosity–generosity of privacy might be one way to say it?–is not something that comes naturally or even feels right for me.

I’ve been thinking about this particular trait. Sometimes it feels like a shortcoming, and other times it just feels like who I am. Short, curly-haired, runner, mom, writer, protective of my private space.

A few months ago, when the photograph of the drowned Syrian toddler first went viral, my husband and I spent a long time talking about what we could do to help. We donated a little bit of money to Save the Children, and I thought I’d like to volunteer to help refugees who might eventually come to Connecticut.

In September, a time when refugees might come to Connecticut felt so far away as to make the entire notion feel abstract. Then, yesterday a family of three Syrian refugees were welcomed to Connecticut after being turned away from Indiana.

I’m still not an open-my-home kind of person. I wish I were, but, truly, I am not. I watched a video today of volunteers on the Greek island of Lesbos who were welcoming arriving refugees. The volunteers took the small children off the dinghies first and wrapped them in blankets, even aluminum foil, to keep them warm. While I recognize that our geographic location here in Connecticut makes it unlikely that I’d be needed to provide first aid or respond in such a physical manner to refugees from Syria, or anywhere else, the work those volunteers were doing really resonated with me. I do think–hope–I’m the kind of person who could be generous in that way.

I’ve been thinking about the things I could do to help. About the things the talented, generous, kind people I know could do to help. But I still can’t figure out how to get started. Is there a coat drive? A food drive? I could make a meal. I could help a child with homework. I could gather up books. I’m sure that in little spurts all over the country, people are doing these things, but I’m not sure how to tap into networks and systems that already exist. Organizing systems is definitely not my strength, but the need for some sort of central place for people interested in helping to gather–even if only online–seems so clear. What is a way that a teacher or an artist or a mom or a lawyer or a grandfather can help here in Connecticut? I’m asking non-rhetorically.

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