My granny always said, “The refugees would love to have your problems.” Granny would know, if only secondhand, since she served as a Methodist missionary in Southeast Asia for 30 years. She visited refugee camps and developed close friendships with people who had fled from their homes in search of refuge. Their stories haunted and inspired her through her final days. I’ll admit that, when I was a teenager, hearing her ceaseless reminders about the refugees felt like being scolded for bemoaning my “first world problems.” But as I’ve gotten older, her words feel truer than ever.
These days, it seems every other headline screams about people dying and families being separated in their quest for refuge. They flee war, famine, natural disasters, and heartless regimes in the hope that something better exists.
The way I see it, having refuge is the privilege of taking for granted that my needs will be met. I expect that when I leave my house it will be there when I return. I trust that the water coming out of my tap is clean and that any food we might need is just a short drive away. In a world where I can count on my needs being met, Granny’s words remind me that for so many people in the world, refuge is nothing more than a dream.
On these summer days when I complain about the heat or the rain, I remember that there are so many people who have no shelter from the heat and rain. When I feel touched out and overwhelmed by my children’s needs, I remember that there are parents in the world who would give anything to have their children around to annoy them. When I stress over the cost of groceries or gas, I remember that I have easy access to healthy food and a vehicle to fuel with gas. When my body is weighed down by chronic pain, I try to remain grateful that I have access to healthcare and medication. At the end of every day, I remind myself to relax into the embrace of my family, my refuge.
It’s not always easy to feel grateful in the face of very real stressors and pains, but my Granny’s voice echoes in my ear from somewhere beyond the grave, reminding me that I really don’t have it so bad.
Kendra Atkins-Boyce is a mother, doula, and writer living in Oregon. She believes wholeheartedly in the beauty of birth, and in the comfort of family. She is always ready to support those who need her in any way she can, and you can find out more about her services here.