Last weekend, most of our family gathered in Chicago to celebrate the graduate school graduation of our oldest son. My husband Mark, our two daughters, and I boarded a plane in Raleigh and headed to O'Hare International Airport. We needed to do a little business regarding an upcoming international trip that we are taking, so we headed to Terminal 5 where travelers arrive from literally all over the world and first step foot into this country. It brought back memories of the days when our daughters arrived to this place as toddlers. The moment that we deplaned after a very long flight from China, they became American citizens.
As we finished up our business and headed toward the light rail that would help us get to the blue line of the Chicago Transit Authority , we noticed a man wearing a headscarf. He was awkwardly, yet fairly efficiently, maneuvering four pieces of luggage. We made eye contact and began to converse a bit. He had never been to Chicago and only one other time had been to the United States - to New York. He was a bit unsure of how to get where he needed to be. We fairly quickly realized that he too needed to get to the blue line. We invited him to come along as we made our way there.
In time, we learned that he was from New Delhi, India. He was traveling to a professional gathering. He told us that he is a doctor - a thoracic surgeon. Once we settled onto the train, we learned that he left behind at home his 10 and 6 year old sons. We traded business cards as we got off at our stop and made sure he understood to jump off a few stops later.
It would have been easy to avoid eye contact with this man and just go about our own business. But I am glad that we did not. He was interesting and kind and exhausted after a long flight from India. In that moment, he was a "foreigner", a "stranger" that is so often referenced in the Bible.
On Saturday AM, as I struck out from our air bnb home for the weekend in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood west of downtown Chicago, I was looking for a pharmacy. I accidentally left my cell phone behind and needed some help to find one. There were a number of older women on the streets speaking into their cell phones a language that was not familiar to me. I made eye contact with one woman and asked her, can you help me find my way? She smiled and pointed. In that interaction, I was the foreigner. As I meandered back, I noticed signs and beautiful architecture hinting of the story of this neighborhood and the people who settled here. Many came from Ukraine, right next door to Russia.
This is what makes this country so beautiful to me. The various cultures and back stories of people who come from so very many places across our globe. When we slow down and engage face to face, we will come to understand that within the human race, there are actually no foreigners at all.