Toward the end of 2015, my family and I learned about a family who had recently arrived in New Zealand from Afghanistan. Their 10-year-old daughter needed a bike to ride to get to school. We had an old bike that my 11-year-old daughter had outgrown, so we gave it to the refugee coordinator assigned to help the family. We didn’t meet the family, but we felt happy we were able to help.
Around Christmastime, my family was trying to think of something meaningful to do for the holidays. We decided to approach the refugee coordinator and ask if we could provide a Christmas meal for this family. The coordinator told us that the family knew very little about Christmas, but they were excited to become more familiar with the tradition. She suggested that we buy a Christmas tree and decorations. Then she explained that it would be better for us to visit the family and drop off the tree ourselves rather than have her do the delivery. We felt uncertain about this plan—it was so much easier to give to an organization. My four children were anxious about meeting the family and asked, “What if we can’t speak to them? What if they don’t want to meet us?”
However, the children were super excited about choosing a tree and decorations. They spent a lot of time choosing the right colors, the right lights, and the right tree. The shopping trip itself was a highlight for my children, and I was proud of them for how much thought they put into choosing just the right things.
We arranged a meeting, and we nervously went to meet the family. The result was wonderful. We met a beautiful couple with four incredible children. We stayed for over an hour, discussing their lives and learning about their country. They showed us photos of their home and family. They had left behind cousins, parents, grandparents, and siblings. They now lived in a humble home with only the bare necessities—but they were happy.
When we left the house and got in the car, my children couldn’t contain their feelings. All of them spoke at once saying things like “That was so cool!” and “We have to come back” and “We have to do more.” My children had a greater appreciation for things like owning a car and a television and for having family members who live nearby. They wanted to literally take the shoes off their feet, the books off our shelves, and the blankets off our beds and give them to this family.
My children decided to forego some of their own gifts in order to buy presents for this family for Christmas. They excitedly wrapped the gifts and carefully placed them in stockings.
Since meeting the family, we have continued to stay in contact. We noticed that the Christmas tree stayed up for two months! We have taken them on family picnics and introduced them to other friends.
We learned a beautiful lesson. Although this family had many material needs such as a car, food, clothing, and bedding, the thing they wanted the most was friendship. Our coordinator was wise to invite us to meet this family. We had to step out of our comfort zone, but it was a wonderful experience, and we hope to befriend other refugee families in the future.