This summer I experienced a trip of a lifetime to Israel.
My husband had a video shoot there so I got to tag along with a remarkable group of teenagers and some lifelong friends. We had an amazing time exploring this beautiful country. We rode a camel, slept in a Bedouin tent in the Negev desert, swam in the Sea of Galilee, floated in the Dead Sea, shopped in the open market and experienced Shabbat in the home of Orthodox Jews.
I still can’t believe I got to experience it all!
But you know what it really did for me? It grew my compassion for our employees who are refugees. We often found ourselves in challenging and sometimes vulnerable situations because we weren’t fluent in the language or the money system.
I purchased freshly squeezed mango juice for 25 sheckels. I handed the vendor 2 bills that equalled 40 shekels. He handed me a 10 shekel coin and went on to the next customer. I think he assumed I wouldn’t know the difference, but I did.
“Sir,” I called.
He ignored me.
I moved closer to him - ‘Sir!” I exclaimed.
Without looking at me he reached out his hand with the 5 shekel piece and released it into my hand. I walked away angry and satisfied.
The only reason I knew to watch for being short-changed was because my friend had been to Israel several times and I watched her check her change from vendors.
But what if I didn’t know the money system? What if I didn’t have a friend to ask?
On another day my husband and I stopped at a local grocery store. I was looking for salty snacks. I looked at the signs over the aisle. What does “Salty Snack” look like in Hebrew?
I walked over to a cashier with an empty line and tried to ask her for help. As soon as my question was out of my mouth I could tell she didn’t speak English. She looked over to a co-worker in the next line for help. That lady pointed me in the right direction.
These types of scenarios happened over and over. They are small experiences but they add up to exhaustion, insecurity and compassion. We were in Israel for 10 days. Most of the time we had a tour guide with us or a friend that knew the language better than us. But what is it like to MOVE to a new country WITH CHILDREN where you don’t know the language? What is it like to figure out money in that country? What is it like to be greeted with suspicious eyes because you dress and look different than the majority of the people that live there?
Many of our employees have done just that, and every day they work hard to integrate in the U.S. culture. I am so proud of them! It takes a lot of courage, resilience and strength to navigate a whole new country while enrolling their children in school and finding work for themselves.
As I returned to Nashville, I felt prouder than I have ever been to be a part of their lives and see them accomplish their goals.