Guest Blog by Dawnielle Miller
After work on a fine Friday, I drove to a very dear friend’s house to visit her new little baby boy. It was a joyous time of celebration. Our conversation for the evening centered on God’s leading in our lives, transition, the challenges of growing up, feeling the weight of increasing responsibility and the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s leading in difficult decision making. After a wonderful evening of interaction with my own culture (religion, music, pop culture, socio-economic, race, language, cuisine, etc), I felt renewed and understood.
It is difficult living as an alien every day, being the odd man out, especially in my own country. In my culture, I can relate. I am educated. I have confidence. I feel I have something to offer to the conversation. I am well versed in all the “Stuff White People Like.” However, in the largely immigrant neighborhood where I have chosen to live, I find myself in a place where people could care less if I have a bachelor’s degree. My confidence shrinks as I walk around sounding like a two-year-old spitting out broken Spanish. I celebrate, as it is rare, when I effectively tell a funny story and it translates both literally and culturally. In Chirilagua they don’t really care if I worked for the US Refugee Program for the Department of State. Many of them don’t even know what that is. My international travel experiences that I wear like medal in the midst of my peer circles, melt away in almost guilt and shame, as it appears to be such wasteful luxury in the midst of incredible necessity. My life experience and privilege has no applicability in the world of pay check to pay check. Suddenly my relationships, identity and worth are no longer based on what I do or what I’ve experienced but who I am, the way I care and how well I love.
On my way home from my escape to my place of safety, I rolled past Executive Ave. (one street over from our apartment) and saw the flashing red and blue lights signaling from the top of five police cars that trouble had been contemplated or practiced in my neighborhood. It wasn’t exactly the “welcome home” for which I’d been hoping at midnight. I wanted to retreat back to my friend’s house, the life I felt I had given up. A house with personal space, where I didn’t here the mice playing in the stove at night, where I could get a drink of water in the middle of the night without watching 20 cockroaches scurry away, where the music upstairs didn’t boom until 2 AM, and the walls actually contained insulation to intercept outside conversations. I sighed to myself and sent a quick prayer to God, “Father, remind me once again why I’m here. Remind me why you placed me here where I struggle to communicate and often feel misunderstood, where I am outside of my element, for I know you have called me here to this place for such a time as this.”
Then God did the most interesting thing. As I pulled down Russell Road and gazed upon the buildings in which my neighbors were fast asleep, He caused the walls of the buildings to come crumbling down. Inside, there were people packed into apartments like sardines, multiple children in a bed, people sleeping on floors with nothing more than a blanket, cots pulled out in the living room, each couch with an individual sleeping upon it. I pulled up to my apartment building, parked my car, pulled the key from the ignition and gazed upon the window to my room. God had provided for me an apartment which I shared with only two other individuals. I had a room which I shared with only one other person, but most of all, I was going to sleep by myself in my own bed tonight.
Beyond the barriers and hurdles I must overcome in this culture every day, I saw some of the lessons which I still have to learn. I saw the sacrifice my neighbors make in order to be here, in order to support their families back home because there really were no other viable options in their own countries to clothe, house, and keep bellies fed. I saw the way they worked so hard and lived on so little, making sacrifices so as not to leave their families behind in their poverty. For some reason God has called me to live in the tension of these two worlds, living my life beside the “have nots” as a descendent and beneficiary of the “haves.” I hope that they are the “will bes” and by choosing to share what we have, love others who are a bit different, and see them as people created in the image of God we can over time all look a little bit closer to “equal.”
Dawnielle Miller is a Christ-follower who is learning to love her neighbor as herself in Alexandria, Virginia. She lives in intentional community in the neighborhood where she is called to minister and is the Executive Directer and co-founder of Casa Chirilagua.
Please note that the views expressed by guest bloggers represent their own personal views, and not necessarily those of everyone associated with G92 or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.
If you’re interested in writing a guest blog, send us an email at [email protected].