A Thousand Ways to Do Something

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Several years ago, as a few of us sat at a picnic table at Refuge Coffee planning a Community Iftar Dinner in Clarkston, Dr. Heval Mohamed Kelli said this:

So many people think of a thousand reasons NOT to do something, but what I love about this community in Clarkston is that you think of a thousand ways TO do something.

As I walked from my home up to Refuge this past Sunday night for this year’s Iftar Dinner, I thought of Heval’s comment. I didn’t remember it because I had worked hard to make the dinner I was about to enjoy happen, but because I hadn’t. The community had, collectively, made it happen.

And I am more deeply grateful than ever before, because I know how much work it takes to pull off a free dinner: the fundraising, the volunteer managing, the marketing, the fine balance of saying, “You are 100% welcome here. Period,” while also creating a boundary that says, “Our only agenda tonight is to open our doors and arms and hearts wide. Period.”

This is the heart of Refuge. To welcome widely and wildly with intention. Thanks to you, we continue to do it, together with and alongside of our wonderful community partners and neighbors. And we celebrate another chance to think of a thousand ways to welcome!

More on the Subject

This part of the story has a tenuous connection to the mission of Welcome mentioned above. It’s such a small moment, but one I don’t want to let pass without sharing it with you.

Last Friday, I drove into our parking lot in Clarkston with a heavy heart. I’m sure the approaching anniversary of Bill’s death (this Friday) colors everything these days. I’ve never been much of a crier until this year. But now—well, now it doesn’t take much.

I turned off my car and looked at a text from a friend that made me burst into tears. So I sat there and let the tears flow, got myself together, and walked over to the truck. Hiyab and Sesayt, our two newest barista trainees, met me with a smile and asked how I was. I couldn’t help it, the tears came again. I waved at them, apologized and said I was really okay. But then I looked up and saw that they were both crying. I got onto the truck and we put our arms around each other. Then Steph saw us, and joined in the soggy bear hug.

I looked out the window and noticed a group of fifteen customers approaching, so I pointed them out and we all pulled ourselves together, laughing. It was just a really sweet moment. Hiyab is learning English and practices a lot. Sesayt will get there, I know, but mostly smiles because she simply doesn’t understand. But there was zero language barrier in that moment.

On Sunday night at the Iftar Dinner, Hiyab and I embraced, and then she looked at me with tender concern and said, “How is your feel?” I gently corrected her, and she repeated her heartfelt question, saying, “How are you feeling?”

Genuine welcome is a special kind of empathy, the kind that obliterates barriers and hierarchies and confusion. Welcome like this just “is,” and it works its way into the smallest, most significant moments of connection.
I hope you can see from these photos by the talented Muhammed Topçu that welcome has beautiful consequences.


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