Editor’s note: With Robert Griffin III’s return to football generating a lot of buzz in the sports world, we’re revisiting this blog Ian Danley wrote about his experience visiting an Ethiopian restaurant in DC watching a football game last year.
We had literally just paid for our food. It was some takeout place without any seating close to our hotel that the front desk had recommended as the only place still open. I walked outside to enjoy the crisp evening DC air quite different from the still tepid Arizona evenings we had just left. Next door to the take-out place was a lively dive full of guys deeply invested in the soon-to-end Redskins/Giants game on Monday Night Football. The neon sign in the glass glowed “Open.” I told my buddy we had made a serious mistake on our dinner choice. Tyler replied, “I already paid, man.” “Go and get your money back,” I pushed. He said I was more the type to go insult the nice woman behind the counter and cancel our order. It turns out he was right.
Inside the new place, we settled down to a few beers and ordered some finger foods to watch the rest of the football game. Nobody cared that RGIII was playing a below average game. You could tell these guys had watched this team before without a good quarterback and now with one – a seriously good one – he would get a pass. The Redskins converted on third down. RGIII could take a knee. The room went nuts.
It was a friendly place; the locals allowed us to be fans with them. The owner came up and brought a little extra food on the house. All told, it was a great American night: friendly football fans at their favorite neighborhood dive, where everybody knows your name, treating the new guy like your childhood pal. You could imagine the Founding Fathers smiling down upon us.
Except Tyler and I were likely the only native-born dudes in the room. Everybody was cheering on the Redskins in Amharic while we ate injera, tibs, and wat with our fingers and drank St. George Lager. A picture of Haile Selassie and JFK together in a town car framed the wall. I love tibs.
Many believe immigration reform will come up again this year. The recent elections have reminded both parties – especially Republicans – about the power of the Latino vote, and Latinos want immigration reform. It might surprise you to hear, but it seems politicians like to do things that help them win elections!
This is why we were at this Ethiopian dive. Several pastors from Arizona decided to attend a summit that brought together Bibles, Badges, and Businesses to call for a sensible and humane solution to our immigration challenges. And it is looking promising!
But one thing in particular could derail us. It’s the thing that has derailed us many times before: people who have been here longer, who have a head start understanding the beauty that is American football, these folks might get scared and force their elected officials to shut the whole conversation down.
We are afraid that too many will come here and force us to change. We are afraid that immigrants will fill up our emergency rooms or welfare roles and bankrupt us. We are afraid that immigrants will want to hurt us or try to take things that belong to us. We are afraid of them.
I don’t believe these fears are defensible or warranted, and this is just the most recent iteration of immigrants asking for the same kindness and hopefully less animosity shown previous groups. That night, watching the Redskins play the Giants alongside some Ethiopian guys demonstrating a truly American hospitality, only confirmed for me the wonderful and complex miracle that is immigration in America.
God reminds the Israelites of their immigrant background (Deut. 10:19) helping them see themselves in the new group of newcomers. “It was pretty tough remember? Folks used to treat you badly. Don’t be like that. You can afford to be generous. I promise to provide for all of you.”
We share American football and RGIII, and we share our injera and tibs. It’s a pretty good deal all around.
Ian Danley is a youth pastor with Neighborhood Ministries in Phoenix, Arizona.
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