I watched her, the youngest of 6, twirl in her jilbab and smiling at anyone she came across. She was an 7-year-old diva in training, sure to make an entrance into her new country. Her mother was young and beautiful, timidly trying to communicate with a volunteer from the community. Her father was rounding up the rambunctious boys who had taken an interest in some hand-me-down shoes.
This is the scene in a clothing bank in Lancaster, PA. A Somali refugee family is equipping themselves with warm clothing in order to survive their first northern winter. A volunteer who doesn’t speak Somali brings her young children to meet the family. These are the Somali refugees’ first friends in the US.
The children wave to each other and smile politely, but somehow manage to communicate with each other with no common language. The diva of the children takes to entertaining herself, although her older brother has a protective watch over her.
I smile to myself at the joy of this family. A family that escaped a violent country filled with extremism, ready to tackle a cold winter in their new home. They don’t mind that they are in a church basement searching through secondhand clothing that is severely outdated. They aren’t even frustrated that they can’t communicate with anyone they come into contact with at that meeting. Six children running around a basement and still the Somali mother’s mind is at ease. She is the US now. Her children are much safer than they had been. She is an American.