I have the privilege of teaching kindergarten in the Harrison School District here in Colorado Springs. My class is special, though, because it is completely made up of students who are learning English for the first time. Although almost all of my students were born here in the United States, their parents are immigrants. As a result, a daily reality of my job is the beautiful mess of intercultural communication. My job is to welcome my kindergarten students to school for the first time, and in doing so I also have the chance to reach out a hand of welcome to their immigrant parents.
Just two weeks ago, I sat down with the families of each of my students for parent-teacher conferences. Inspired by the Evangelical Immigration Table’s “I Was a Stranger” campaign, I decided to approach these conferences with a little more intentionality than in the past. I decided to end each conference asking at least one thoughtful question to each family, as if I were talking to neighbors or friends, not to strangers.
As I asked questions, I was blessed and challenged as I heard both stories of hardships, and stories of being welcomed as a stranger.
One student’s mom told me a story of when she was welcomed as a stranger. She was a single mother recently arrived from El Salvador, taking care of an infant son who was quite sick with a respiratory infection—all in the middle of a Colorado blizzard—which means this probably took place during the month of April. So, with the tenacity and fierceness that only mothers possess, she bundled up her son and herself, and began walking in the snow to Peak Vista medical clinic because—she had no other way of getting there. But as she was walking, an African American woman pulled up next to her and offered her a ride. This woman saw a stranger and invited her in, into her car. Even though the two women could not speak each other’s language, the African American woman offered the young mother her phone number, communicating though gestures that she should call if she ever found herself in need again.
To me, this is beautiful. The stranger is welcomed, and the kingdom is breaking in.
Brooke Zeller is a kindergarten teacher in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She is in her 4th year teaching and loves her job because of the joy, challenge, and creativity that her students bring into the classroom.
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