Yes, Please

“I speak ten languages,” was “A’s” response to my inquiry into his linguistic proficiency. Most of the languages he speaks are what he called tribal languages from his home country in West Africa. His English was good but his use of the word “please” showed he was filtering our shared language through the lens of another language and culture.

“Would you like to take have something to drink?”
“Yes, please.”

Unnecessary etiquette, but it works.

“Is this your first time in the United States?”
Yes, please.”

How endearing.

This went on throughout the visit. “A” was eager to talk about his multi-country journey to safety, the conditions inside the detention center, and his long-awaited reunion with a sister in the Northeast US.

“Are you comfortable discussing what factors caused you to seek asylum here?”

My partner and I were attacked; he was killed and I had to flee.”

“Yes, please. It’s because I am homosexual and my partner and I were attacked; he was killed and I had to flee.”

How does one hold a stranger in the midst of such trauma?

The brutal loss of a loved one. Vicious victimization at the hands of a culture and of individuals bent on homophobic violence. The insecurity of a clandestine journey across many borders. The cruelty of being detained with suspicion but without due process. The ongoing grief of so many losses.

I wanted to hug our guest, but COVID-19 created yet another wall of inhospitality, one that makes everyone suspect.

I wanted to hug our guest, but COVID-19 created yet another wall of inhospitality, one that makes everyone suspect.

In that moment, the best I could offer was hospitality borne of shared powerlessness. I offered simple words and deeds of peace. I gave myself as a gift of mutual vulnerability.

Do I want to see a world where immigration detention no longer exists?
Yes, please.

Do I long for a day when bigotry and intolerance are replaced by humility and understanding?
Yes, please.

Even though the road be long and weary, must I continue to find ways to give and receive a love that crosses borders?
Yes, please.

Yes, please.

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