Many of us have been searching for a meaningful response over the last several months, when so many vulnerable people in our nation—and around the world—have felt threatened. Admittedly, news about the executive order barring citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries for ninety days and suspending the admission of refugees for 120 days has been dizzying. Federal courts have blocked the order and the Trump administration has appealed, even as the President threatens another order.
What will happen today, tomorrow, or next week in Washington DC feels up for grabs. But what can happen in neighborhoods like yours and mine gives me hope.
I read an email, on my Durham, North Carolina, neighborhood listserve, about a woman who was working with nearby universities to coordinate summer student housing, in local homes, for students from Muslim-majority countries. She was soliciting hosts who would offer summer lodging to students impacted by the order—those who’d been planning to go home but weren’t able or had been advised not to.
I shared this local opportunity on Facebook, asking people to message me privately for details that included her contact information. The response was amazing.
One grad student wanted to host a fellow student.
A Haitian immigrant friend–a single mom–wanted to open her home.
An evangelical campus minister from Duke University was eager to participate in welcoming students.
A number of families from my politically-diverse Presbyterian church wanted to open their homes to affected students.
Those were just some of the local responses. Others wanted to know how to respond in their own areas: Alabama, California, Colorado. A friend on the coast called nearby Eastern Carolina University to see what her family could do. One in Michigan called her local university to learn how to register as a potential host.
The powerlessness so many have felt in the wake of the November election and January inauguration suddenly gave way to fresh possibility.
Realizing so many open-hearted people wanted to respond by loving students, I created a simple national directory to offer hosts an on-ramp to opportunities in their areas. (Now pausing to wait for the legality of the ban to get sorted out before populating it further.)
It’s hard to know what will happen next. Ideally, by the end of the semester, every international student who wants to return home to hug their grannies and play ball with nieces and nephews, will have the freedom and confidence they can do so, without risking their education. Should students not feel that freedom, though, I am more than confident that open-hearted Americans will welcome them into our homes.
Because, even in these desperate days, I see beautiful hope among Americans eager to love their neighbors.