My spirituality book club is reading From Somalia to Snow by Hudda Ibrahim, a faculty member at St. Cloud Tech, is a Somali immigrant, here since 2004. We are excited to have Hudda join us when we get together to discuss the book.
I want to share one small passage this morning because it expresses, I believe, the plight of any immigrant coming to America. Those of us born and growing up here take for granted the comfort we feel walking about and the ease of maneuvering our systems. Hudda shares the words of a Somali man who came to this country in 2014 that captures what our ancestors must have felt coming here:
“No newcomer will be able to navigate American life without any support from their own community. When you are new to a place, you don’t speak English, and (if) you don’t have genuine support, your transition will be ineffective. You feel like you are thrown out of a plane with a parachute into the desert. You have no water, food, or home. All you do is wander around, not knowing which direction you are heading. You feel lost and confused. You feel weak and vulnerable.”
For these new people, connecting with others who not only know their language but understand their culture and their needs is vital. I have had the experience of being in another country not knowing the language. My biggest fear was to be left alone without the assist of someone who could represent me and express my needs. The help the Somalis are getting in St. Cloud is first of all from their own Somali people, but I feel gratitude to the St. Cloud citizens for working to welcome them. It takes a special effort to open the doors to employment and reach out to assist them in working with systems while they work on learning the language and familiarizing themselves with the American culture.
Hudda goes on to share barriers and some of the negative experiences that many Somalis are experiencing, but the large influx says to me that there is a more welcoming spirit than not. I think of the coming of my German and Polish ancestors over a hundred years ago. I am grateful that they found a place here and were able to settle in. I hope others can remember that here in this place, unless you are one of the original people, you are an immigrant. We need to treat immigrants the way we ourselves would want to be treated.