contributed by Stevie Cromer

Monday, June 20th, 2016 was World Refugee Day.  It wasn’t very long ago that I may have seen the term “refugee” on the news or social media, and honestly, I probably thought little of it at the time. The concept of a “refugee” felt incredibly unrelated and distant from my life. I could fairly easily put the concept out of my mind.

 

“The concept of a “refugee” felt incredibly unrelated and distant from my life. I could fairly easily put the concept out of my mind.”ngs.

 

Before joining LUNA, my only experience with refugees was as a camp counselor at the Indianapolis Jewish Community Center which was how I spent my summers in high school and college. There were a large number of Russian refugees resettled on the Northwest side of Indianapolis whose children attended camp. I remember specifically a few ten-year old girls who stole my heart simply with their smiles as they were unable to speak a word of English in the beginning of the summer. I remember they ate tomatoes like apples, taking giant bites out of the side. I never thought much about their life in Russia. What they had experienced, given up, and also gained by moving to the United States. I had little to no understanding of all they must had already experienced in their short lives.

 

“Now, working at LUNA, I have coworkers who are refugees. Not just coworkers, but friends.”

 

Now, working at LUNA, I have coworkers who are refugees. Not just coworkers, but friends. We have relationships that allow me to ask honest, hard questions about their life. They help further my understanding of what it means to be a refugee, fleeing the only life they’ve known and building a new life in an unfamiliar world.  I work every day next to people who have faced hardships and challenges that hopefully I will never know. Not only have they faced them, they’ve faced them with grace, strength, and humility. And, maybe most importantly, despite these hardships, they are still filled with love, hope, and light. We share smiles, laughs and hugs. We also share our worries, troubles, and sometimes tears.

 

“The word ‘refugee’ is no longer just a word to me. It has faces. It has names. It has a deeper meaning. It evokes feelings of strength, peace, and calm, all attributes of my friends.”

 

The word “refugee” is no longer just a word to me. It has faces. It has names. It has a deeper meaning. It evokes feelings of strength, peace, and calm, all attributes of my friends.