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Welcome to Canada, let’s play tag

Our family is part of a group that is sponsoring and settling a refugee family.  We put a lot of time and effort into preparing things in advance, but even so, things got real pretty fast when we learned last Tuesday that the family would be arriving before the weekend.

We already had temporary accommodations arranged, so some people volunteered to pick the family up from the airport on Friday, some to get supplies that various local agencies are collecting for newcomers, and my job was to help make their first meal. There was much excitement, especially with my kids, who hadn’t really shown much interest until an actual family had arrived.

On Sunday night (right smack dab in the middle of the Super Bowl, actually), our whole sponsorship group got together for dinner to meet the family.

The newly arrived kids were about the same ages as mine and some of the other sponsoring families’ children, and it took all of about five minutes before the whole bunch of them were playing Lego and house and play dough and spies and whatever else. In no time at all, the newcomers were indistinguishable from the born-in-Canada kids except for their imperfect English, which was expanding by the moment.

There will certainly be difficulties ahead for them, as there always are when people are adapting to a new culture and a new language and a new community, but watching those kids play, it struck me how similar we were despite our cultural differences. Although our experiences may differ widely, although our opinions on certain subjects may differ strongly, although our cultural expectations may differ radically, there is still more similar in us than different.

Our tendency, of course, is to focus on the differences, because they’re often a source of conflict.  Yet, if we can manage to set the differences aside for a time, even the important differences that we’ll need to deal with eventually, we soon see in each other our shared humanity, and our kids can lead the way in this.

I often write about how important it is for us as parents to be models for our kids, but this is a place where perhaps they can be models for us.  If we can learn from their ability to pass over differences in the interests of a good game of tag, we might find that our adult differences also need not separate us as much as we fear.