I was aware that people in our community have ‘issues’ with those who came to st cloud to start a new life. I was aware that there was animosity between people groups. I read stories about people being rude to people of different ethnicity, but….my goodness. What I witnessed a few weeks back was pure hatred. It was deplorable and broke my heart. It made me want to do something, but what?
I had dropped my children off at their aunt and uncle’s home so that my husband and I could go out on a date. I was looking forward to the time together, but little did I know that in just a few seconds the way I saw the world would be changed for a lifetime. I was stopped at a stop sign in St. Cloud waiting to cross 3rd street, across the street from Seberger Park. As I pulled up to the stop sign I was aware of my surroundings. There was a lot of traffic and on the sidewalk waiting to cross in the crosswalk stood two Somali women.
The traffic started to slow, and finally there was no traffic from the east and a minivan stopped so that the women could cross. A few seconds later a white pick-up came up behind the minivan and stopped. He looked around the van to see what was going on. He rolled down his window and started shouting at the women in the crosswalk. The words he was shouting were not very nice. He honked his horn over and over and when the van in front of him didn’t budge, he squealed his tires and went around the van.
At this point the two women were still in the crosswalk. One of the women was very elderly and not moving very fast. I saw the white truck pulling around the van and so I put my van in the intersection to block the truck from hitting the women. The older lady made it safely back to the sidewalk where she started and the other lady had sprinted across the road to get out of the way. I pulled through the intersection and parked my van on the side of the road as the white truck sped off.
I ran to the crosswalk to make sure the ladies made it across safely. The sweet woman who stopped to wait for them, rolled down her window and called the man in the white truck a jerk before she drove off. As I walked up to the women a million questions popped into my head. First of I wanted to make sure that these women were okay. But as I approached them they looked terrified. I didn’t know if they would understand what I had to say. I didn’t know if I should offer them a ride to their destination. I didn’t know if they needed a hug. I just wanted to help.
I gathered my thoughts and just tried to put my worries behind me. I asked the ladies if they were okay. They looked at my square in the face. I could see fear, and worry. I repeated my question. “Are you okay” The younger of the two women said,
“Yes. But they hate us. I don’t know why they hate us.”
I didn’t know what more to say. I knew there were issues here in town, but I had never seen hate or felt hate as much as I did from that man in the truck. I nodded my head to the woman and said, “I don’t understand either. I am so sorry.” She thanked me for stopping and they were on their way.
My heart was broke. I didn’t know how to help. Sorry isn’t going to fix our community. As my heart stopped racing I drove home to pick up my husband for our date. I just had question after question. What if that was my child in the crosswalk, would that man in the white truck stop and wait for them? What if it was my grandma or my niece or nephew? Yes. I think the man would have stopped. By the words he was shouting, I know without a doubt, he wouldn’t have not cared if he would have run these women over. How can someone’s heart be so full of hate? The whole incident made me want to learn more about the Somali women and culture as a whole because (heaven forbid there be a next time) I want to know what I can do or say that will help. I wanted to understand more about why these families are here and why so many people hate them…what makes the Somali community any different than my own.These beautiful people are here to be free. Click To Tweet
I contacted Natalie of #unitecloud and just shared my story and started asking questions. Do the Somali people speak or understand English? Can I touch them? I wanted to badly to hug these women to show them that I cared, that someone cared. I wanted to know more of what I could do to help. After talking to Natalie, I was enlightened about their culture and their hardships. These beautiful people are here to be free – just like you and me. These beautiful people are here to raise a family – just like you and me. These beautiful people are here to start a fresh life. They are just like you and I. They have a history, a heart, a soul and a mind. They are amazing.
I still have more to learn but I am not going to let my ignorance be the reason why I don’t talk to them or try to build community. I am going to make eye contact. I am going to open the door and say hello. I am going to speak up and not sit silently on the sideline.
I want my community to be great. We can achieve this by being kind and loving to all our neighbors, because we are all human!
*Written by a member of the Central MN community who wished to remain anonymous.