Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What Can Germans Do For Syrians?

I keep wanting to answer the question of my nervous student, who wondered, "Can we take a whole country into Germany?"
Yes, and here's how we're doing it.  My local church (denomination unimportant) has a parish hall that seats around 100. So a lady active in various church groups invited 70 refugees from the recently-erected tent city, people who trekked and were smuggled and walked and God knows how they finally got here, but they did, within the last few weeks.
I got to the parish hall around three in the afternoon, with my daughter, who was deciding whether she'd play the violin. I brought my tap shoes and a chocolate cake. By the time I got there, so many cakes lined the tables that I had a hard time finding a place for mine. There must have been fifty cakes there. German ladies know their cake, believe me. Also coffee, of course, and tea. About thirty Germans, mothers, a few fathers, children, were sitting having their cake and coffee and wondering whether the Syrians would come. 
What if they had no transportation? What if they didn't get the invitation? Security's tight at the tent city--so tight that the grandmotherly lady who made up the laminated posters inviting refugees was not cleared to enter the tent city. She had to hand over the posters to somebody who, she discovered, did not put them up. 
But then the Syrians arrived! Almost all were young men and not all were Syrian, although to a man they were refugees. I counted one or two women. Once everybody was seated, the German ladies got really busy handing out cake.
The minister welcomed everybody and detailed services, religious and otherwise, that the church can offer--young peoples' groups, German lessons, computer services  . . . . then a volunteer translated everything into Arabic, and after that I translated everything into English. 
Then it was back to entertainment. A girl played the violin; her sister accompanied her on the piano. Then more announcements were made about the weather--Gee, it's getting cold here! We know you're used to warmer weather, and Germany isn't usually so cold in October! So eat cake, please, and drink your tea or coffee, and by the way, containers of warm clothing can be found at the local school at the following hours . . . . that announcement was translated into Arabic and into English.
Then came more entertainment: a local troupe did some hip hop.  That woke up everybody! The guests cheered, whipped out cell phones and took pictures.  I got up and tapped the shim sham shimmy. More cheers--then the Syrians took the stage and did some dancing of their own. The minister was very happy about all this--he wanted intercultural, he wanted everyone welcome regardless of religion, and all this was happening.
Only one or three pieces of cake were left over at the end.
Guests left happy.
Guys who arrived looking stunned, blank, and continued to look stunned, blank, through the serving of the coffee and the cake and through the first several announcements were smiling by the time the dancing was over.
So, Germans--and Americans, you too, please:  if every household baked one cake, if every church, synagogue, mosque, house of worship of any or all denominations, offered a friendly afternoon with good eats and good tea and coffee and friendly offers of help with the local language plus donations of clean, seasonally appropriate  clothing--all this would not cost anyone a lot of money, and it would make the world a happier place.

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