Welcome is Big Enough for all the Sides

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I’m just a human who wants to be welcomed.
I’m just a human who wants to welcome, too.

This is a universal necessity
and an equally universal capacity,
written into my DNA and into yours.

Distill welcome down to its purest form,
and it is nothing more or nothing less
than love.

Kitti Murray
March 1, 2024
Clarkston, Georgia

These are not naïve words. We’ve tested welcome here at Refuge. And we have learned that it is costly, difficult, and wildly rewarding.

When Refuge set out to create a workforce development program, workplaces, and community gathering places that offer agendaless welcome, we might have been naïve, but we soon learned a few things:

Welcome like this doesn’t mean creating an echo chamber where we all agree. We have hired people whose earlier lives were lived on either side of wars, after all. We don’t all believe, vote, or live the same. We attract passionate people who support us, but who don’t always agree with us.

We have learned that to welcome is a reminder that it is a distilled form of love, to continually examine our offerings of it, to risk it, to make mistakes doing it, and to have the courage to listen to opinionated people who may or may not know how to welcome better than we do. Welcome is hard. But welcome is worth it.

We are hosting a Community Iftar dinner for our community on Friday, March 22. A few years ago, before our first Iftar, someone asked me if we planned our events based on the latest news trends. I can see how he thought that, and yet it doesn’t make sense. If we planned an event every time one political, religious, or national group committed unspeakable violence, our heads would spin. We plan many of our events in response to our neighbors’ requests. We plan them in order to ensure that the people in our communities who are the least welcomed get to experience it the most. That invariably means we will be considered side-takers from time to time. But taking sides is not our goal. Rather, our goal is to welcome everybody. To love. Those two words—love and welcome—are big enough for all the sides.

There is no side-taking that does not ultimately leave unwelcomed humans in its wake.

I need welcome. You need it. Our refugee and immigrant neighbors need it. We understand that singling out a group of people from one ethnicity or religion for one night to create a welcome space for them and for everyone else who wants to join in may offend some. But we are going to do it anyway.

Taking the side of the unwelcomed with you,


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