31 May Locked Doors and No Friends
For 25 years, driving through Vickery Meadows was just a short cut to the mall. During my frequent trips I made certain that my doors were locked and windows rolled up. Like a horse with blinders, I kept my eyes straight ahead and ignored what was around me. But one day, my church requested volunteers for an event that involved face painting. Since I was an art major and had recently retired, I was looking for something new to do. Little did I know what was ahead. Children lined up with dark faces and dark hair, some girls wearing sequined hijabs. They were ordinary kids who just wanted their faces painted. The line was long and the event was cut short by a sudden thunderstorm. But I was smitten. I wanted to come back for more.
I began assisting new refugees with English, tutoring through my church outreach. Foreign acquaintances turned into friendships. I was invited into their apartment homes, where I tried foods from their cultures, eating only with my fingers. In Vickery I felt safe. I learned that many had left their war- torn countries and exchanged their beautiful homes and gardens for a dilapidated, cheap American apartment in Vickery. In Vickery they felt safe.
Their culture is completely different from anything I’ve known before. The men from Nepal wear skirts, African women dress in colorful long dresses with matching head wraps. Arabic speaking teen girls sport jeans and a matching hijab. Women gracefully balance laundry baskets on their heads with babies swaddled on their backs. Men squat for hours outside their apartments chatting with one another. Mud is painted on faces for sunscreen, and red dots appear on foreheads.
I’ve driven new friends to the doctor, waited in emergency rooms, helped complete countless forms, attended birthday parties, walked through art museums and gardens, and on and on. I have lived life with my new friends. And when my husband died, they came to my home with food and tears and hugs. They came to my husband’s American Christian memorial service—a foreign experience for them. I have the privilege to love on some of the children whose moms are employed by VTC. They love me back. I have watched them grow from tearful infants to happy toddlers and pre- schoolers. Their moms are happy also! And now my eyes are wide-open! As I drive through Vickery Meadows, I look carefully to see if I can spot some of my new friends.
How can you get involved and make friends in your community? Vickery Trading Company loves having volunteers. Find the volunteer application under the “Support Us” tab.