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MY JOURNEY


ALISON STANKUS JD '08, MSW '09


MY DAUGHTER HAS BEEN on this earth for two and a half years, unbelievably closer to being three years old than to that tiny infant who came home from the hospital on a cool, rainy early summer day. One quality that has emerged in that time is her empa- thy: She is acutely attuned to other children who are upset or crying in restaurants, at the park, or in the airport terminal. Verbal from an early age, she acknowledges them and oſten is not able to continue with whatever activity we have been doing until we can assuage her concerns. Though this empathy seems organic to her being, it is a quality that fits with the values my husband and I have sought to teach her, or those that we hope we are modeling for her in our daily lives. I have little doubt that last November's election


and the events that have followed would have sat heavy with me no matter my stage in life. Yet expe- riencing it as a parent has stung even deeper—not only as an endorsement of so many values that are the antithesis to my beliefs and work for justice but as an antithesis to the values and morals I hope to instill in my daughter. As I struggled with how to react, it ultimately was my role as a parent that pulled me up and forced me to be hopeful when I did not feel much hope. It started with a simple affirmative response to a post in an online neigh- borhood mom’s group by a mom seeking others interested in sponsoring a refugee family. The group was matched with a Syrian couple with a toddler, a family composition that mirrored many of our own. Over the course of a few months, we collected monetary donations, fully furnished an apartment, committed to a schedule of weekly mentoring vis- its, and, as it got closer to the date of their arrival, stocked the family’s kitchen. But on January 27, the family’s plans to land in


Chicago were halted by the executive order suspend- ing the U.S. refugee resettlement program. Instead of welcoming the “strangers” we had been preparing for, the apartment remained empty and the family in limbo. Due to the reach of social media, the fam- ily’s story spread quickly, most notably through a post by our group’s leader with a photo of an empty crib and stuffed bunny for the toddler in the family. It was that image that resonated with so many.


For me, there was no way of not thinking of my own daughter, who slept warm and safe in a crib just like that one. Nationality and circumstances seemed the


48 LOYOLA UNIVERSITY CHICAGO


only difference between my family and the family we were co-sponsoring. Through the hard work of many and the grace of


A lesson in welcoming the stranger


the TROs, the family arrived a little over a week later to the embrace of extended family and cheers—and some tears—from the resettlement organization and our group. Since then, we've had the privilege of not just assisting the family with settling in the Chi- cago area but getting to know them over coffee and tea, learning about Syrian culture, and enjoying the giſt of their delicious cooking. Our visits oſten center around playdates between the family’s toddler and our own children. The formal co-sponsorship was for six months, but we continue to walk with them as they navigate creating a new life here. This fall, we celebrated their daughter’s second birthday—her first in the U.S.—with singing and cupcakes. Each encounter is a reminder, especially when I have had moments of losing hope in the last year, that the tenets of my Jesuit education will continue to provide guidance and light through this seemingly dark time. How could I not recognize the value of another, no matter their faith or background? It is also is a reminder for me to take a cue from


my daughter’s concern for the crying child at the park. My goal is to teach her through my words and actions to stand up for the rights of others, yet she is already modeling an understanding that in fact we are all interconnected. Thankfully, my daugh- ter—like many of the children of members of our co-sponsorship group—is too young to understand the current political climate or that anything has changed about the world since November 8, 2016. Despite that fact, the very reason I felt a pull to join my neighbors in sponsoring a refugee family was to set an example of love, kindness, and inclusivity for her. Welcoming immigrants and refugees, and seeing others we meet as a giſt, is precisely what I hope to instill in her already empathetic being. At least a few times a week, I see my worries for


the future and concern for what I can possibly do echoed in the posts of online parenting communi- ties. While I don’t have any more of an answer than I did a year ago, I am certain that the experiences and lessons of the Jesuit tradition have prepared me for this moment, no matter what turns our culture takes. It is precisely because of my daughter that I must continue to advocate for the marginalized as a “woman for others.”


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