New Year’s Resolutions Inspired by Courageous Asylum Seekers

Thinking about her 2019 New Year’s resolutions, the Modern-Day Church Lady revisits her 2018 resolutions to remove four self-defeating phrases from her vocabulary: I can’t, I couldn’t, Not Enough and Too Busy

Working with asylum seekers is an honor. Where else would I get to meet modern day heroes who risked their lives for justice? I volunteer regularly with First Friends, an organization that promotes “compassion and hope through volunteer visitation, resettlement assistance and advocacy. I meet with asylum seekers while they are held in detention and maintain a friendship with them after they are released.

Last year, my 2018 new year’s resolutions were inspired by four men who were granted asylum and are now rebuilding their lives in the United States. I resolved to remove four self-defeating phrases from my vocabulary. This year, as 2019 approached, I revisited my resolutions. I’ve made progress on all, but they still are a work in progress.  Here are the four phrases I’ve tried to eliminate from my psyche:

TJ, budding men's fashion designer

 I Can’t: I learned from T.J., a young fashion designer that anything is possible, even putting on two fashion shows in one year on a shoe-string budget.

In 2018, inspired by T.J., I redoubled my effort to become a 360° storyteller by taking photography and writing courses. My dream is to spend my 60’s and 70’s traveling around the world collecting and telling people’s stories. Channeling TJ, I know I can do anything I set my heart on. In 2019, my resolution is well underway with an Op-Ed writing seminar and The Photographer as Storyteller course planned for the first half of the year.

Abu, shortly after his successful Asylum petition

#2: I Couldn’t: Meeting Abu taught me the power of faith in the midst of difficult circumstances. All throughout his detention and during the initial post-detention struggles, Abu kept the faith that things would work out—and they did. He moved clear across the country and started a new life in Iowa.

As an independent consultant, I regularly freak out when I look to the months ahead and am not sure if I will have enough paying work. But Abu has taught me to take a breadth and remember, things will work out if you just keep moving ahead.

So, while I can’t claim that I never had a freak out moment in 2018, my paralyzing adrenaline surges were less frequent. In 2019, I’ll have more faith that I can survive the inevitable knocks life sends my way, knowing that I can get through anything with the help of my faith and my community.

Taiwo at Thanksgiving 2018

#3 Not Enough: Taiwo’s detailed appreciation of the Christmas card I sent to him while in detention made me feel sheepish about the perfunctory way I treated the cards I received. This year, I saved them all up, poured a glass of wine and took the time to appreciate all my friends who sent me snippets of their lives. In 2019, I resolve to work even harder at savoring the beautiful things that come my way instead of getting caught up in the daily grind.

Edafe at his New Jersey book party

#4  Too Busy:  Edafe taught me that there is always a way to help others, no matter how busy you are. Edafe is a creative whirlwind who has written a book, Bed 26, turned the book into a play and hosts a regular podcast, The Pont. Still, he finds time to visit people in detention.

So, when First Friends called and asked if I could host a young Honduran man over the Christmas holidays, my family and I said yes. The old me would have said no, I had way too many guests and plans already. But I said yes, and our holiday was even more joyous. My husband and I were regularly rewarded with gales of laughter filtering up from the basement where my adult children, my son’s girlfriend and Jose were watching some really bad tv! In 2019, I resolve to keep helping where I can for an even more joyful life. 

I’ve got my work cut out for me in 2019!