The first recollection I have of watching how an immigrant was treated dates back to my teenage years in my native Brazil. A woman looking very distraught and dismayed entered our home, carrying a small suitcase and speaking to my parents in broken Portuguese. I don’t recall the woman’s name, but I vividly recall the days that followed her arrival.
Our house was one of the largest in our hometown back in the 1970s, and it was common for our home to be the temporary home for a person in need. My parents had a heart to care for the poor and underserved, just like the Paraguayan mother, who had come into town to see her young son. He was being housed at the local jail, and she wanted to have him moved to a jail near her home.
My mom was the attorney assigned to her son’s case, so it made sense at the time that we housed that mother to save her the trouble — and money —from a lengthy hotel stay. I think it helped both her and my mom understand one another’s perspective on the intricacies of motherhood.
The woman ended up staying in our home about a month, and by the end of her stay, the judge had ruled in favor of transferring her son to a jail near her home. I never learned what crime her son had committed, but I knew in her time of need, my parents opened their home so her distress would be minimized from an already deep pain.
Some 20 years after that experience, I moved to the United States with my new family, and more than once, I needed the hospitality of people I barely knew. Even to this day, as I have already been in America for 30 years and it’s become my home, the generosity and hospitality has been reciprocated on multiple instances.
The author of Hebrews wrote in chapter 13, verse 2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it” (NASB). We are given opportunity after opportunity to exercise hospitality to strangers, or those we define as “immigrants” or “different than us.” This hospitality doesn’t necessarily mean we have to bring them into our homes to live but that we make them feel welcome and wanted.
I have volunteered as an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, been involved in activities that serve the underserved and volunteer as an interpreter to help those who cannot speak for themselves. I currently serve as a personal shopper for my church’s food bank, which serves hundreds of families each week, including many immigrants. To those many souls in distress, a simple smile and a prayer as they come in to gather a few items to prepare meals for their families can go a long way. Each time we hug an immigrant, serve them or engage in conversation with them, we are tearing down the invisible wall of prejudice that keeps us separated.
Luska Natali is originally from Brazil but has lived in the United States since 1988. She enjoys writing devotionals and short stories, and has contributed to different newspapers as a freelance correspondent in both Indiana and Georgia. She also enjoys doing simultaneous interpretation from Portuguese and Spanish into English and vice versa. She has three sons, seven grandsons and one grandson on the way.
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