The Refugee Crisis: I Want to Help! (If It’s Easy…)


I winced as the cashier read my total. I was about to spend $65.85 on a bunch of things I didn’t even get to keep.

Cringing slightly, I swiped my credit card. Was I really spending that much? I knew it was for a good cause. But spending $65.85 really didn’t feel fair.

Right now, my church is collecting household supplies for newly-arrived refugees. I signed up to bring pots, pans and baking sheets. After shopping around and comparing prices, I came away with 3 baking sheets, 2 frying pans, and one large pot.

And when my total came to $65.85, my heart sunk. Um … what gives? Apparently this is what I get for trying to do something good. Why couldn’t it be something more reasonable, like $20-30?

Fifteen minutes later (feeling a twinge of irony as I swiped my credit card at Starbucks), I thought about the things I would spend $65.85 on:

  • A month of lattes.
  • A new outfit.
  • That really fancy bottle of scotch I saved up for when I got my new job.

But you don’t need to hear that comparison. Every charity has already told you something like that.

Then I thought about the inner-city school for which I’ve worked and volunteered. I’d give them $65.85 in a heartbeat. Why? Because I love that school. I care deeply about its mission.

I’ve eaten lunch with their students countless times. I’ve heard their stories. Some have told me about pain in their past, and I’ve watched them fight to overcome huge obstacles. I’ve seen the teachers giving selflessly. I’ve stood in the room as they pray for a student. I’ve felt the presence of God there–his supernatural hope amidst pain.

I’d have no problem writing them a check for $65.85… or more. So what makes giving that amount to a refugee family so difficult?

Honestly, I don’t know any refugees. I haven’t spent a day walking in their shoes. I haven’t seen firsthand the struggle, hurt, and hopelessness that is their daily reality.

I haven’t eaten lunch with them. I haven’t heard their stories. I haven’t prayed with them during times of pain.

So I took a sip of my coffee, put my indignation in check, and thought about it for a second. Right now in the U.S., everyone knows about the refugee crisis. We’ve been hearing about it for months. It’s getting harder to ignore.

Take one look at  the photo of 3-year-old Alan Kurdi lying facedown on a sandy beach, and the sickeningly bleak reality hits right in your gut. Children are dying. Families are being forced to leave their homes. The U.N. says there are almost 60 million refugees in total. We’re in the middle of a global crisis.

I don’t know refugee families personally, but I know people who do. The day my church announced this supply drive, we heard from a woman who has worked with refugees.

She’s talked with the families and children: confused, alone, and overwhelmed in a new country. Families who come from every continent–fleeing a range of hardships. She’s gotten to know them. Formed friendships.

As she spoke about our supply drive, she had tears in her eyes.

And here I was. So annoyed. Because I had to spend $65.85. On a couple of pots and pans. Something that the refugee family who receives them may not have owned for 2, 5, or even 10 years.

In theory, I like the idea of giving to help people in need. Especially people in my community. Refugees, fleeing years of crisis.

But when push comes to shove, I don’t want to put in the effort. I don’t want to give more than 15 minutes. Or $30. Anything more than that–it’s kind of asking a lot.

And honestly, I’m pretty annoyed at myself for that.


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