A few weeks ago I asked my dear friend Courtney if she would write a guest post on my blog. Courtney was one of my college roommates, a bridesmaid in my wedding and the friend who is always teaching me something. Courtney and her husband Blake (who is a friend of mine from back in high school!) are both educators. Five days a week you can find them in the classroom in our local public school system. However, they are educators 24/7. I have the upmost respect and admiration for teachers and much of that is a direct result of watching the way Courtney and Blake pour themselves out and into their students. They are the kind of teachers you dream of your kids sitting under in a classroom.

I asked Courtney if she would share about what it is like teaching her classroom of students. Her classroom is full of English language learners. Many, probably most, find their way to her classroom and welcoming arms after a long and difficult journey.

I’m going to make a little sidenote here. My initial plan was to share Courtney’s interview as part of a series on people I know that are serving and loving others well in a wide arrange of ways – foster care, CASA workers, shelters, classrooms, senior adult centers, etc. Since I posted earlier this week related to immigrants and refugees, I had hoped to space Courtney’s post out a little bit. I know it can be an emotionally charged topic for some and I didn’t want emotions (either way) to distract from the beauty of what Courtney is sharing. However, it has been a very difficult week for me and those other posts have not been written. So, please welcome Courtney here with the grace you always extend to me. 

Thank you Court for willingly saying “yes” when I asked you to share here.

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Teaching and Learning: The Importance of Loving and Living with Immigrants

Not saying a word, I gave Marya a hug this morning as she walked into my classroom. She says, “Miss – I have so many bad feelings this weekend. My dad is very sacred.” I say to her, “I am so sorry (while giving another hug). I am so glad you are here today.” Marya replies, “Me too.” There is a connection and knowing between us that needs not to be said today. For perhaps, there are not even words that will adequately fill this space.

My heart and head are swirling with all I want to say, but trying to get it out into words fails me. If you were to know me, you would be assured that I am rarely at a loss for words. I am a big talker. Yet, what is going on right now in our country leaves me searching for words and reeling from emotions.

However, words to describe the refugee and immigrant students who have filled my English Language Learner public high school classroom the last ten years easily spill out of my mouth and heart – they teach me. 

My students teach me that kindness knows no language or cultural norms. I see kindness in the way they welcome a new student into our class who doesn’t speak their language or look like them. Kindness comes in a heartfelt smile to remind one another you are seen, and you are known.

My students teach me hope is forever a bonder of the human spirit. For we all cling to hope and that clinging is something to unite us, not divide us. I see it in the eyes of the mama who brings her daughter to our school, hopeful her daughter will learn all she was never able to learn. As I lock eyes with that mama, no common language is needed. The hope for her child illuminates on her face, and as a mother myself I get it.

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My students teach me that perseverance builds a depth of character that leaves me in awe. Many of my students have been waiting and going through years of vetting with the United Nations. They have often lived years in refugee camps before stepping into my classroom. Trauma and loss from that time will forever imprint who they are. Yet the perseverance they possess compels them to continue into this next scary journey of their lives here in the United States of America.

My students teach me that loving one another has action. The day after my newborn son Silas died I called one student to tell her and ask if she could find a few students to come sing at Silas’ funeral.  As I walked into the church sanctuary for his funeral, I saw several rows were full of my students. They loved me well that day by the action of showing up – the ministry of presence. Seeing so many on that stage singing the hymn Amazing Grace in their language and then in English, I felt unbelievably loved. It was a beautiful glimpse of heaven.

My students teach me about grief.  They show me that grief is about cherishing life and experiencing deep love. The crying for ones we miss and talking about the longing ache is not to be shied away from or dismissed. And that a sincere hug is often what is needed most.

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My students teach me that laughing is good! Their teenage antics and practical jokes make me smile daily. I do a “Friday dance” each week. It is a silly tradition in my classroom, but my students always remind me to do the dance if I forget.  The sincere laughs I hear in my classroom touch the depths of my soul.

My students teach me sitting together for a meal is a sacred time. The laughing and learning that happens while enjoying one another’s food is a strong bonder of hearts. That bringing someone a dish made by your own hands is a gift. And super yummy!

My students teach me about resilience. Being a teenager is tough! Now imagine being one in a new country with a new language, and all you know is different. The trauma and loss they walk into my classroom holding is often seen across their faces yet their resilience shines brightly; they are so brave.

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In addition to teaching, my students are engaged in learning.

My students learn reading, writing and American culture in my classroom, but together we learn so much more. Hundreds of students have sat in the desks in my classroom; each student is forever a part of my heart and my life’s story. For they have taught and continue to teach me what I didn’t even know I needed to learn.

My hope and prayer is that you will find someone who doesn’t look like you, someone who struggles with your language, someone who sees the world differently and has had different life experiences, someone who worships differently. And when you do…

Let them teach you what you need to learn the most, but don’t even know yet.

By: Courtney Fields Connelly

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If you would like to help support teachers and young English learners in your area, here are a few ideas of ways to help:

  • Contact the volunteer coordinator at your public school district to see what types of volunteer opportunities are available like reading partners and tutors
  • YWCA often has volunteer opportunities
  • Catholic Charities also often has places to serve
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  • Beth - Courtney, that was very powerful. Thank you for sharing and giving us a glimpse into the impact felt *and made* by your students. May God richly pile heaps of blessings on you as you continue forward!

  • Kristin - Well, it was hard to read through the tears after the Amazing Grace story, but this was beautiful. Thank you.

  • Emily - Beautiful, thank you for sharing!

  • Amanda - Thank you Courtney and Ashley–your post, thoughtfulness, experiences, and honesty help me open my heart wider. Thank you!

  • Renee C - Wonderful! What beautiful relationships 🙂 Thank you for sharing in this space.

  • Tina - What a lovely post and an amazing group of students.

  • Sarah - What a meaningful post. Courtney, thank you for writing it. These posts are important. Let’s keep focusing on the good out there.

  • Teresa Stewart - Beautifully said. All anyone wants is to be seen and accepted. What a gift you are giving your students.

  • Patti Schreiner - Thank you Courtney and Ashley. This post fills me up!

  • Cecile - Thank you Courtney for sharing with us. I especially appreciate the action steps at the end of your post. And thank you so much for the important work you do with these children!!!

  • allison - Wow! Thank you so much for all you are doing for those kids in your community. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story.

  • Meredith - I have always been so proud of my big sister and that continues today. Love wins! Even in the darkest of days, love wins.

  • TheDenverPack - Thank you for this.

  • Kathy Rubey - I so understand and share your love for these precious students! They are brace, kind, and oh so resilient! Thanks for this tribute to these students and their families!

  • Tammy - I was an English As a Second Language pre-school teacher for many years; not sure if community colleges still offer those sorts of classes and programs, but its worth looking into. They can always use help!

  • Friday Favorites | Cupcakes and Commentary - […] students teach. Powerful and lovely […]

  • Trish - Thank you for sharing light and humanity at a time when it’s sorely needed. Love and kindness are always a balm and always the right thing.

Thank you for your feedback on my post from Monday. I’ve read each of your comments and hope to respond. I had a three part series going in my head. Today I was going to share about foster care and some action steps for getting involved in the lives of vulnerable children in your community regardless of if you can open your home or not. Well…life happens. I did not get that post written. New goal is to post it tomorrow because the third part of my ‘planned’ series this week is an interview with one of my dearest friends. She is a public school teacher with a classroom full of diverse and inspiring students.  I can’t wait to share her interview on Friday.

Part of the reason I didn’t get the blog post written is because the weather is BEAUTIFUL. Sunny days mean I have to get outside. It is a self-imposed requirement. The kids and I skipped school on Monday and headed out for a hike.

Glorious sunny day. Spring please come. Pronto.

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I took all my kids, but these were the only two ever close enough to me. Corbett likes to run off in the woods and the other two just like to run…and climb.
hike-02hike-03She’s got the shortest legs in a family of runners and hikers. I am not sure why she is looking so old here, but I am can’t decide how I feel about it. Thankful to see her grow, but goodness girl slow it down a bit.

I got to hold my friend’s newborn yesterday. I don’t want to freeze time with my kids, but I sure wouldn’t mind a Back To the Future car just to go back and snuggle them again as tiny babies. Mommas with tiny ones – stop whatever you are doing and just snuggle that baby….for as long as you stinking want to. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

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  • Liz Rose - Im on my way to snuggle right now!!

  • Tammy - Oh she does look so grown there! She is a beauty.

  • Cynthia - I sooo feel you on the Back To the Future option and the advice to Mommas with tiny toes! Hear, hear!!! 🙂

  • Rochelle - Oh heavens, can you send some of that warm north or just send spring! And amen to the mama advice! Mine is just a few days past two and wants no part of snuggles anymore. I snuggled her as a tiny as much as I could but it will never be enough!

We were in middle school when she told me her parents gave her permission to legally change her name. I remember exactly where we were standing. The bell was about to ring and we would be late to class if we didn’t hurry. I don’t have too many vivid memories from middle school, but that moment is one I’ll never forget. I could not comprehend what she was telling me. I couldn’t understand. I was an “Ashley”. Along with the girls named Michelle, Jennifer and Rachel, we made up 60% of the middle school female population.

My friend Thao was changing her name to Tina. I couldn’t articulate it at the time, but the moment she told me I felt a sense of loss. I knew her family came to the US as refugees, but I didn’t really understand what that meant. I definitely had no idea what it felt like or even a guess to what challenges they had overcome. Thao was simply my friend and she was changing her name. It was the moment I realized how important to know someone’s story and to imagine life their shoes before speaking or forming an opinion on something I didn’t understand.

Tina and I stood next to eachother on the stage at our graduation, each delivering speeches to our 980+ student body. She served our class at the student body President. It has been years since I’ve hugged her neck, but I watch from afar as she continues to gently lead, empower and change the lives of others. I’m so grateful during my most influential years, she was one of the girls walking beside me.

AshTina

Michelle and I forged a friendship as we balanced on beams, covered our hands in chalk, and goofed off in the locker room. Gymnastics brought us together every day and she became more of a sister than a teammate. She spent weekends with my family and I spent weekends with hers. Her parents, brother and sister became a second family to me. She has always been far cooler than I – teaching me the ways of Birkenstocks and introducing me to all the good food. In all our years of tumbling floors and bouncing between our homes, I never asked her or her parents about their journey to the U.S. as immigrants. Michelle describes it as a true American Dream story and I hope one day I could see them again and hear the story in person. Michelle pushed me to work harder, to pursue excellence, to loosen up a bit and to smile – a lot.

(photo on right was taken the day her parents’ application to the US was approved and they got their Visas and passports)

AshMichelle

A couple years ago I desperately wanted to learn to make steam buns and dumplings. My sweet friend Bopha invited me to her home along with a few other friends and her mom. Bopha’s mom spent an evening teaching us and laughing alongside us as we all tried to learn her tricks. She didn’t measure anything and would smile when we’d attempt to write down a precise recipe.

35 years before she was on the run with her husband and three children (9 yrs, 6 yrs, 2 months) trying to escape Pol Pot. They had seen family members starved to death and murdered. Fleeing for their lives they made it to the Thailand/Cambodia border and a week later into a refugee camp. After shuttling between 4 different refugee camps, 15 months later her family of 5 made a home in Oklahoma. 15 years or so later, I would meet that 2 month old baby (who was by then in high school) and would grow to love and respect her as a dear friend. Decades later we would both adopt little ones from China. And years later I was in her kitchen learning to make the steam buns and dumplings to share with my family.

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Blogging is a funny thing. Actual, real, authentic friendship can form through words typed on a screen. Many years ago I ‘met’ Ruth through blogging. We both had a couple kids and both were among the ranks of the strange few that called themselves ‘bloggers’. I liked Ruth when I only knew her online. When I met her in person, a deep love for her and her family was born. Ruth inspires me. She challenges me. She is my opposite in just about every way. I describe myself as the ‘least connected blogger’, while Ruth is known by and knows pretty much everyone. I love that about her. Ruth is a friend that understands the highs and lows of being an online entrepreneur. She is sister and encourager in an area of life that can often feel lonely for me. She is a grace in my life.

Ruth

Gracelaced

Then there was the frail little one placed in my arms 4.5 years ago. I’m forever changed by the grace of knowing her as my daughter. She is the one who makes me laugh every day, the one who is far wittier than what is normal for a 5 year old, the one who is a living example of bravery to me, and the one who joined our family via an Immigrant Visa.

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I don’t know what life would be like without these 5 women in my life. They have molded my beliefs. They have taught me to set my expectations high. They have empowered me, challenged me, inspired me and changed me. Their journeys to Oklahoma looked far different than mine and I’m forever grateful for the gift of knowing them and being known by them.

I grew up in the halls of First Baptist Church. In the 80s, the generation ahead of me sponsored countless refugee families to make Oklahoma their new home. Several of those families had babies that would one day become my dear friends. Also in the halls of my church were the families that fostered countless children for decades. I grew up watching the adults in my church – they fostered, they served the homeless, they cared for the sick, they sponsored refugees, they welcomed the immigrant. Their arms wrapped around the hurting, their doors welcomed the lonely, their tables served the those hungry for food and community. They were my living example of Jesus and what his hands and feet on earth look like. Watching them molded my Christian faith, my dreams for my future and my current family.

As I tune my ear to the voices around me and online, I keep thinking to myself if only we could all be more mindful of who is listening. If only we could consider the feelings of others and how our words impact them before we speak. If we could do our research and respond out of education and not hysteria or fear. If we could remember when we throw around terms to describe whole groups of people, we are selling ourselves and others short – and we often do so much hurt and damage.

If only we could take time to sit around kitchen tables and really listen. Listen – in a way that the goal is to hear the person speaking, not listen only to formulate our response. To really listen to the fears and concerns of those supporting drastic change. To really listen and hear those that stand with signs welcoming refugees. If we could turn off Facebook, put down our phones and look into the eyes of those we disagree with – we might just find a friend in an unexpected place.

I have experienced the beautiful gift of deep friendships with women whose family stories are far different from my own. My life is richer because they are in it and I can only hope and pray my children experience friendships like I have.

Listen to truly hear. Ask questions to learn. Welcome the stories of others. Consider who is listening and the impact of our words. Speak slowly with passion wrapped in grace. I can wish it for the masses, but I know it starts with me.

 

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  • Kristin - Stories like this will change more hearts and minds than anything I can think of. Thank you for sharing. I hope you will share this with your elected representatives if you have not already done so.

  • Joey - Thank you for such a beautifully written, inspirational post.

    Whilst I love blogs, I often find none of the big issues are addressed really, and in the current world climate I’m finding I’m more drawn to people that are prepared to share a position. Thank you!

  • Leah - What a beautiful post. Thank you.

  • Phoebe K - Such a lovely post. Thank you for your beautiful stories of these women.

  • Kate - Thank you for sharing these stories – such a beautiful post.

  • Jen - So beautiful. Thank you.

  • Amanda - Thank you Ashley-really really beautiful and a heart opening reminder. Thank you.

  • Tiffany - I was surprised to see this post didn’t have other comments yet because it is one of my favorites of yours. The tone of your whole blog includes looking for goodness in others, and I absolutely love your deep appreciation of their gifts. It can be easy to take for granted. Thanks for the pick-me-up this morning!

  • ashley jensen - This is wonderful! I never had classes with Tina but I did with Bopha. I saw her post on Facebook and I remembered a though I had while sitting in 9th grade English with her. I briefly wondered if she were born in the US or elsewhere, I wondered what her families story was, but never dreamed of asking. After all, I knew that she belonged here. I can’t imagine what their journey was like, and knowing that to this day people continue to experience this, it breaks my heart.

  • Katie - This is beautiful! <3

  • Tania - Thanks for humanizing the debate, each of us are a complex mix of features, experiences, backgrounds, etc, so much more than any categories we can fit at a given moment. And it is always important to remember that there is so much more love than hate in the world. Anywhere in the world.

  • Jessica P - Beautiful much needed truth. Thanks for articulating it.

  • Emily - Thank you, Ashley

  • AnnMarie - Thank you for sharing this! I appreciate this reminder: ” Listen – in a way that the goal is to hear the person speaking, not listen only to formulate our response.” I think that far too often I’m NOT listening, especially to those I disagree with. Even though I want to consider myself a compassionate person standing up for others, I sometimes forget that I still need to listen grace-fully to the people on the other side of the issue.

  • L Kane - Thank you for your wisdom and compassion. There is so much I want to say about this topic, but know that it would take many hours of conversation together to feel as though I would be getting just past the tip of the iceberg. Let me just say that I’ve been reading your blog for a few years and while I could focus on all the differences between us — regional, religious, family, temperament etc — I have found much to admire and appreciate in the values and perspective your articulate on your blog. Much of what distinguishes us is precisely what interests and enriches my life. Thank you for being just YOU! Thank you also for expressing in the most kindest, gentlest and gracious way what I hope not only for our nation, but the whole world as well.

  • Shira - Beautiful – I needed this today. Thank you.

  • Steffany - Thank you, thank you, thank you! Since the election I have said the same, that nobody is really listening. We’re not communicating, we’re talking. And posting. And ranting. Over and over and over, out of fear. I posted this on my blog in October, “Fear is not real. It is the product of thoughts you create. It is a choice.” And it seems fear is making the choice for so many. I made the change myself, that I would listen first and respond second and so yes, it begins with us. And although I’m trying to get others to do the same, I have not been successful. But I continue to try. We will continue to listen. And love. And posts, like these, will bring about change and compassion. It is difficult to know what to say in times like these and your words…beautiful and true. 🙂

  • Heidi Estrada - Thank you so so much for telling this story to the masses. It’s so important to put faces and stories in the place of words or groups.

  • Krista Maurer - This is one of my favorite posts you’ve ever written. My heart holds the same tender feelings. My husband is an immigrant from Turkey and so many of the people I love most have similar stories to his. I love this country, but what I love most is the way we are better for our diversities and our vast and varied histories. Thank you for sharing your friends’ stories. I, too, know my life is richer for the people in it, especially those who’ve sacrificed and gathered their courage to come here.

  • Melanie - Yes. If everybody would form their opinions from own experience and not from what they saw on tv or facebook, the world would be a better place. Thank you, Ashley. One reason more for you to be one of my favorite bloggers. Greetings from Germany.

  • Stacey - Beautiful and very relevant post! Thank you so much for sharing your stories. It’s personal stories like yours that touch the hearts of others and hopefully helps others think a little clearer by seeing through someone else’s eyes and expands their thinking to a more global understanding.

    I have been following you on Instagram now for a short while drawn in by your awesome photos of life as it happens. This is my first time to your blog and I’m so happy I visited!

  • Jen - This is wonderful, thank you.

  • Leiann - Wow, what a great post, no matter your political stance.
    Just another reason why I love your blog. You always make it about everyone else, not yourself. Please never change your blogging style. It’s perfect just the way it is. So many bloggers have turned into paid posts, “look at me! posts” and “this is why I’m so awesome” posts. You have a way to keep people interested by just being you! Thank you! 🙂

  • Carrie - Beautifully written – thank you for sharing <3

  • Julia - I love everything about this post. Thank you. My oldest daughter came home from China in 1998. At that time, they were not automatic US citizens when the plane touched down. Instead, they were given Green Cards and we had to apply for citizenship. I couldn’t help but think of that time last weekend when so many were being sent back to other countries… anywhere but here. What would have happened to us.

  • Emily - Thank you for this. xo

  • Rachel - Thank you for this. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I know it’s hard for an introvert to do, but so important.

  • Jenny - Yes! Thanks you for your eloquence Ashley.

  • Debbie H - You do not disappoint, Ashley. Your gifts shine through. I only hope that THOUSANDS if not MILLIONS can see this post, reflect and think.

  • Cynthia - Yet another heartwarming story!!! :’) Listen I will!

  • Julie Boyd - This is fantastic. I love love your blog. I just melt in my chair when I read your posts.

  • Ryan - I love this so much.

  • Tammy - We can embrace the immigrants who hugely enrich the fabric of our nation without turning a blind eye to the major problems that unchecked illegal immigration has caused. We need to make sure we are also listening to those who have legitimate concerns about illegal immigration, as well.

    Europe is having quite the adventure with all the refugees they let in. There needs to be a better system for vetting them.

  • Maureen - Thank you for sharing these beautiful stories. My Grandfather had an amazing story of a neighboring farmer during WW2 that he helped to keep his farm while being interned.
    My sons best friend has a sister from India and his girlfriend was adopted from China. These people are so interwoven in our lives, I could cry to try and imagine not having them and all they bring and are in our lives.
    These are some of the vibrant stories we share and listen to.

  • Ruth @ GraceLaced - I’m so grateful for your voice and your friendship.

  • Rae - Amazing and heartwarming. Thank you and God bless <3

  • Heather Johnson - I couldn’t love your blog more if I tried. Beautiful post. Your writing and the way you live your life is inspiring to me. Thank you for sharing your gifts.

  • Ruthann Wells - Well, your blog made me cry, Ashley!!! So many wonderful memories. The early days were hard many times but oh so rewarding! I am so very proud of these families and all they have become and all they have accomplished. They are all such a blessing! Thank you so very much for telling their story and yours. You did it so well!

  • Gabrielle - Beautifully written, well chosen words, so lovely to read something thought provoking in a postitive way rather than something that is just negative and destructive. Thank you for sharing.

  • Fran - You have such a beautiful heart, Ashley… Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us!… <3

  • Sara - At a time when there are so many voices and opinions, this is a helpful and beautiful addition to the discussion. Thanks for sharing!

  • Erin Prohaska - Beautiful and important words!

    Thank you!

  • La Verne - As always Ashley, your heart speak ripples through all of us with your “lifexample”.

  • Allison - Beautifully written. Your perspective is exactly what we need more of in this world. Thank you so much for continuing to share your heart.

  • Beth Ann - No words. Your <3 is beautiful.

  • Rochelle - I love this post so much. Thank you for setting the example and leading through your actions and sharing it publicly. Your blog is an amazing example of faith and love in action.

  • Kristal Simel - Agreed! Well said

  • Romy - Ashley, your words are so nice. Everytime I see the picture of you and Chris holding your baby in happy tears, I start to cry. I know how much you longed for that day, the amount of suffering you went through, and how it was worth every second of waiting.
    Blogs sometimes come and go, but yours is the only one I keep reading and reading everyday.

  • Sarah - I don’t have anything wonderful to add but just wanted to say that I love what you have written. I know I am guilty of listening to someone speak while formulating my immediate response instead of asking further questions or really appreciating what they say.

  • Jane - I’ve read and enjoyed your wonderful blog for years but never written a comment, but this time I had to! You are right, our lives are infinitely richer with wonderful women like these, and women like you! Thanks to you and your family and friends for inspiring me. Kindness is what matters.

  • linda - Yes! Thank you for posting this. I have three immigrants in my family (adopted from China). If we look back far enough, most of this country came in as immigrants. I appreciate your personal story on this divisive issue.

  • Rachel C - I’m so glad you told their stories! They are stories of grit and sacrifice. Stories of love and determination. Thankful for each of these women and their inspiring stories. Beautifully written and challenging, important words. Love you, my friend.

  • Carrie Campbell - I remember a movie from when I was a child called ‘the girl who spelled freedom’ about a family of Cambodian refugees relocated to families in America. Then a few years ago I was able to go to Cambodia and see the things the regime had done, the destruction still there, the hopelessness that was still being overcome. It was really sobering. I taught English while I was there and I have never seen such passionate and willing students. They were amazing. Thank you for posting this! <3
    P.S. Little One has already influenced the lives of many!!

  • Jenn - such a beautiful post. love reading your works about how these ladies shaped your lives and how you learned about their lives in the process. thanks for sharing your words and heart

  • Peggy - Ashley, You inspire me every time you post something. Thanks you so much for this.

  • Renee - Beautifully written – thank you for sharing. I’m so uplifted by the many voices supporting our nation’s immigrants and refugees (both past, present and future). It can feel, sometimes, as if the loudest voices are the voices of fear, but I’m finding in the last several weeks that the voices of love and support are drowning out those fear-based shouts. Love!

  • Cassandra - Beautiful words Ashley, thank you for taking the time to put those thoughts into a post. It is lovely.

  • Alysa - Your heart is beautiful. So very grateful for the encouragement you are to me, every time I pop on your blog. I swear, we’d be fast friends if I lived in OK. My guess is you’re never moving North to Chicago, so I’ll have to come South. =) Continue being brave and loving; the way you share your heart and your voice is a beautiful mix of both.

  • Mary Osborne - What a great post…..and perspective!! This is a great reminder to stop and listen to what others are saying. And also to stop and think before speaking. My goal for today….and always, is to be ‘quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger’.

  • Kelly - Beautiful post Ashley!!! Kelly

  • Ruth H - Well said Ashley! What a wonderful perspective on this hot topic. We are here from the UK thanks to a visa and now green cards. I do not take this opportunity lightly and am grateful for my chance to live here. We were looking for adventure not escaping. My heart breaks for everyone who is trying to escape terror and hardship and make a life for themselves here.

  • Erica - Yes. Yes yes yes. Read this with tears welling up in my eyes. The paragraph about doing our research and listening and not responding out of fear is spot on and what we need to hear. Love this little space of yours and the sweet goodness that comes from it. I don’t know you but I sure do love you!

  • Kristy Collins - Beautiful, well-timed post. Thank you. I pray people listen to your experiences with immigrants, which are the real ones. My grandparents are immigrants as will be soon-to-be daughter from China! (We leave to meet her next month :)!!)

  • Trisha - Your way of being in this world is an inspiration. You’re a reflection of Gandhi’s “be the change you want to see in the world.” Thank you, Ashley.

  • Michelle - Thanks for speaking up and sharing this perspective in a difficult time.

  • Marsha - This post took me back to 1975 and watching Vietnam fall on the nightly news, of seeing moms shoving their babies up into helicopters trying to lift off, of utter desperation, all with utter helplessness… until one evening my parents set us down. They asked my brother, sister, and me how we felt about sponsoring a family. I can still feel the surge in my heart as I jumped up from the hearth, already all in. I first gained a Vietnamese brother, only a few years older than me, as Mom became involved with the resettlement program. My brother went with us as six of us loaded into my parents Chrysler station wagon and headed to Fort Chaffee. Eleven of us filled the car on the return to Tulsa. A family of five with a mere two trash bags containing all of their worldly goods, all collected once they arrived in Arkansas. The woman who became my sister had tears creeping over the edges of her eyes, so my mom said having caught a glimpse in the rear view mirror. She had her two babes, 4 and not yet 2. She spoke no English. My new brother did, though. And my sister’s brother? He was a few years younger than my brother. I still remember listening to them at night teaching each other’s language back and forth. Actually, it was a mix of Vietnamese, Cambodian, and English. I have another brother and sister gained in the wake of the fall. He escaped with this little family, but it took him awhile to make his way to Oklahoma. All of our families have remained close even as we’ve grown. Just like a “real” family. God is so good, and we are so blessed.

  • Margaret - I have to confess I am one of the people who is having a hard time listening. My worry for the vulnerable is roaring in my head, making it very hard to listen. I think the raids that are happening on people who are here illegally are chilling and brutal. I worry for them and their children (who are often American citizens). I worry, I worry! I sympathize with those who are afraid for other reasons, and am a supporter of sensible immigration reform, but this is not it. The raids and detentions are terrifying. I miss the kindness and decency that you describe in the church of your childhood, Ashley. Thank you for your generosity of spirit. I will try to listen better, although it’s really hard right now to hear the other side.