A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I attended a refugee training seminar sponsored by Arrive Ministries.
Arrive is the place where I fold towels and pack dishes and participate in other acts of Introvert-Specific Social Justice. It’s the place where I have slowly learned to notice the space that our refugee community inhabits. Sitting on the floor in that donation room, I have started the slow work of making space in my own heart.
But up until this month, I hadn’t been to any large group trainings. Strangers and sandwiches and small talk are not usually my jam, and events like that tend to leave me depleted and drained.
But this time, I went. Andrew and I drove to a church downtown. We sat at a round table near the front of the room, eating sandwiches and oranges, while around us, the room filled and filled and filled. By the time the training started, it was brimming, every table circled wide with love.
The ministry director spoke about the refugee ban. He spoke with clarity and sorrow, but somehow, without a single hint of bitterness toward the current administration or one note of the frenzied anxiety that feels so prevalent these days.
Our work has not changed even if no refugees come for 120 days, was the gist of the message. We are still committed to doing the work of welcome.
We sat and listened. We looked at photos on the projector. We listened to a pastor from the Kakuma Refugee Camp talk about his 17-year journey toward resettlement. He wore a red dress shirt with a bright orange tie. His dimples were deep; his laugh was enormous and generous and full.
In that room crammed full of bodies and noise and noise and hope, I found myself expanding.
It was the best self-care I’ve given myself in weeks.
My spiritual director doesn’t call it self-care. She calls it resourcing.
In our session early this month, she reminded me that without enough resources, we are prone pinging back and forth between frantic anxiety and debilitating depression rather than engaging with pain and need in a healthy way. The best thing we can do in these days, she says, is to find ways to stay grounded.
Resourcing vs. self-care. It’s a simple turn of phrasing, but it has changed the whole way I’ve approached my fragile February self this month.
I’ve come to associate the term self-care with bubble baths and massages and me time and naps. I think about comfort food – casseroles with loads of cheese and cream-of-something soup – and about rich desserts and about Tom and Donna’s “Treat Yo-Self!” day on Parks and Recreation.
I tend to be sensitive to the way we word things, and for all of its cozy connotations, I cannot seem to separate the term self-care with things that are a bit indulgent, a little bit luxurious.
But then, there is nothing luxurious about the word resourcing.
It is plain and simple and unglamorous. It brings to mind grocery shopping and wood cutting and preparing food and pouring water.
Resourcing is not so much about giving yourself what you want. It’s about honoring what you need and doing the work to provide it to yourself.
People have, of course, been saying this same thing in different ways for years. Instead of saying, What is resourcing to you?, I’ve heard What breathes life into you? or What feeds your soul?
It’s the same concept, obviously, but that phrasing always felt a little woo woo and vague to me. I have never been able to move my answers from the cerebral to the space of my daily living.
But this question – Is this resourcing? – has become a touchstone for me this month.
Something that is resourcing will extend beyond the moment of comfort provided by a bubble bath or a second glass of wine or half a pan of cheesy potatoes.
When I picture it, I imagine a small space in my body from which I engage with the world. And then I think of it filling with air and space, expanding larger and larger, becoming spacious. Resourced.
I think about it when I decide what to read on the Internet, filled with all of its ragey responses and think-pieces and fake news and panic. I want to be educated about the things going on in the world, but it’s a fine line between learning what I need to know and making myself sick on media.
Is this resourcing? I ask myself, now, before I click open an article. Articles that are resourcing for me come from places with minimal partisan bias and educate me about what is actually happening. The ones that are especially helpful for me are the ones that provide some pathway toward hope.
An article about how the election and the subsequent marches have prompted women of color to seek office feels resourcing. I stay away from ones with titles like India’s Air Pollution Rivals China As World’s Deadliest and Is War on the Horizon? They only make me feel powerless and fill me with unproductive anxiety. They make that space inside me shrink very, very small.
I am thinking about this question – Is this resourcing? – when I’m trying to decide about lunch: eat an entire box of Kraft Mac & Cheese by myself, or make a spinach and chicken wrap?
I am thinking about it at dinnertime when I’m cutting the onions, cooking with fresh but more expensive ingredients…because it’s resourcing to me to spend that hour in the kitchen, doing nothing making dinner.
Breathing deeply. Inhale four beats. Hold. Exhale four beats. Watching my children play. Beauty. The sun. Going for a long run. Reading from my Spiritual Formation Bible slowly, slowly, slowly. Thinking through the questions. Letting it sink in.
Is this resourcing? I am trying to think about it when it comes to spending time with people, though I’m admittedly not very good at it. When I get into my dark spaces, I tend to pull away, to isolate in my introvertedness, to spiral into myself.
But friendship is resourcing. Relationship is essential for the health of my heart, and so even though I really want to stay home, lock the doors, sit in the bathtub and binge-watch Netflix, I know it is resourcing to go, to be present. To make the phone call. To have that cup of coffee.
To go to the refugee training, packed as it is with so many strangers, with so much small talk, so much that drains me…
But at the same time, to find myself surrounded with people who are scared but still hopeful, who are heartbroken but still showing up to do important work…
I am learning to notice this. To close my eyes and imagine the space inside of me expand, expand, expand.
To remember that I am strong. That I am grounded.
That I have something to receive from this broken world. And I have something beautiful to offer it.
Arrive, like many other refugee ministries, receives grants based on the number of refugees they welcome. Because of this, they lose a major vein of income due to the refugee ban. They need our help to keep their doors open, to keep their wise and wonderful staff on the payroll, to keep their infrastructure in place so that we can get back to welcoming refugees as soon as possible.
If you’re looking for a practical way to help in this crisis, please click over now and donate to Arrive…or to a refugee resettlement service that you know and love.