26 Feb Inexperience Doesn’t Excuse Inaction
Our pastor recently shared some wisdom that’s worth sharing: “Inexperience doesn’t excuse inaction.” Inaction due to inexperience. I feel like that’s how most of our country responds to immigrants – especially refugees. We don’t have any frame of reference for their language, clothing, customs or food. Most of us haven’t experienced living in a war zone or through life-threatening persecution. We don’t know what it’s like to lose almost everything – including loved ones – and be thrown into an unfamiliar country and expected to survive. Sounds a bit like American reality TV shows, but in the real-life drama of a refugee, the season doesn’t end and there’s certainly not a cash prize at the end.
Our unfamiliarity makes us afraid to step out of our safe zone and get involved. What if they’re dangerous? What if they take jobs from us? What if I hate their food? What if I can’t communicate with them? What if I don’t have enough time? What if they get me and my kids sick?The list is endless and I’ve heard all of them. While they’re understandable concerns…
What if you’re WRONG?
What if they’re running from danger and desperately need safety to survive? What if they provide a needed service in your community and have four little mouths to feed at home? What if you love their food? What if you don’t need to speak the same language to begin a friendship? What if the time you give is more valuable than anything you gave up? What if they’re getting good healthcare for their families for the first time ever?
Fear of the unknown drives us to self-centered worry, causing us to miss the person in need. We focus so much on protecting ourselves from an unknown (even fictional) threat, that we miss an opportunity to do what’s right. Sometimes, the unknown threat is our own shame or embarrassment. We’re afraid we’ll look like a fool if we try something we’re not trained for, so we stick with what we know. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use the skills, talents and training you have. While it never hurts to learn something new, you should certainly contribute to the world in your area of expertise. I am saying that maybe your skills could be used in a contextyou’re not familiar with. For the vast majority of us, refugees are an unfamiliar context. I would argue that since it’s unfamiliar for almost everyone, and since refugees are a very present reality in many places across our country, no one gets to play the unfamiliarity card. No one gets to run because of inexperience because in most cases, none of us have it.
Inexperience can’t be the basis of our decision to act. I didn’t know how to sew when I started Vickery Trading. I don’t speak Farsi or Arabic or French or Swahili or Urdu or Rohingya or any of the other languages of my Associates. I didn’t have fashion, design, marketing, online sales, SEO, retail, website, ESL or finance experience when I started Vickery Trading. I had no experience with Middle Eastern or Southeast Asian people groups. I knew very little about Islam…or really even what Christianity looks like outside of the US. I’m building an impressive resume for myself, aren’t I?! (Note the image of me above when we first started VTC with my LOADS of inexperience)
Good thing experience wasn’t the basis of my decision to help. My moral principles were. As a Christian, my moral principles are shaped by the Bible. For others, it might be another source. For many of us, no matter how we got there, the Golden Rule is pretty common ground, wouldn’t you agree? “Treat others as you want to be treated.” I pray that if I were ever in a situation like the refugees that I work with that someone would hold out a helping hand to my helplessness. I hope to God I wouldn’t be treated like so many refugees in America are. Like afterthoughts. Like a burden rather than an opportunity. Like a dangerous criminal instead of the victim of unthinkable atrocity. I hope someone would have compassion on me on the basis of helping another human being, rather than pass me by for fear of being ostracized by their own political or religious group.
Think about it. If you were to put your fear aside – fear of the unknown or fear of embarrassment – what would your moral principles tell you to do about the needs around you? Maybe there are refugees living near you. But there’s someone in need around you. Would you respond differently to the injustices in your world if you were brave enough to act on the principles you say you believe? Would you put it off by adding to your list of excuses or would you jump in, even in the smallest way?
Barak Obama put it like this, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change we seek.” Stop the excuses. Follow what you know is right. Take the risk. Be the impact someone needs today.