Pumpkin pie and cockroaches

November 23, 2011

Last night I ate a traditional Thanksgiving meal. You know… injera, doro wat, samosas, dal bhat, briyani and pumpkin pie at the Refugee’s First Thanksgiving feast. People, food, music and dancing from all over the world. Um, yes please.

The two refugees I sat between didn’t speak much English. The 20ish year old guy was mute and deaf and his mom knew about three English words.

Our conversations went like this:

Me: Pointing at something nearby and making a “Do you like this or not?” face.

Them: Nodding or shaking their head.

This went on for about two hours. We didn’t share any complete sentences. And it was beautiful.

Another gal I met lives in the same apartments as them. I was eating pumpkin pie and she began telling me about her home’s big problem.

Cockroaches. (Sidenote: Cockroaches and I don’t get along, but it seems like every time I’m around them God shows up in a big way. I kinda wish God would use another thing like baby kittens. Or cotton candy. Or flowers.)

She told me the entire complex is infested but, “They only come out at night when it’s dark.”

My heart dropped. I wanted to pay for an exterminator to spray their home. Then I wanted to do that for my two other new friends. Then I wanted to do it for the whole complex. But then I realized I couldn’t afford it and felt helpless.

After dinner I gave them a ride home. We got in the car and I turned on country music. Hey, they needed to hear the greatest music ever, right? Other than the radio and an occasional laugh at my many u-turns, the ride home was really quiet.

Thirty minutes later I pulled into their dark parking lot expecting to just drop them off. But nope. They pointed at me, then upstairs to their home, motioning for me to come in. I politely refused, letting them know I had to leave. They insisted. So I parked the car and walked up three flights of stairs to their two bedroom home. The mom pushed open the door and I followed closely behind her son and found myself in a dark, dark, dark room.

I heard the lady shuffling around the kitchen where she turned on a small lamp. My eyes slowly adjusted and that’s when I saw everyone.

Seven people. Living in a two-bedroom, cockroach-infested apartment. Greeting me with the biggest, genuinest (yes, that’s a word) smiles I’ve seen in a long time.

Like an honored guest I took a seat on the only piece of furniture in the room. In this new place I felt welcomed. Each family member told me their name and I awkwardly tried to repeat it. I’m pretty sure I messed up the pronunciations beyond recognition but they didn’t care.

What mattered was that I was there. Sitting. Not saying anything. Just being present in their home.

After exchanging phone numbers a few minutes later I headed out. The guy walked me out to my car and waved goodbye. I left feeling… a lot of things.

It was beautiful meeting new people so my heart was full. In the same minute my heart hurt knowing they sleep on the same floor where cockroaches crawl around leisurely during the night. It was humbling receiving their spirit of hospitality and friendship.

As I drove away my mom called me and asked how the dinner went. I lost it. Just started bawling. I had to pull over because I couldn’t see through the tears.

Here are wonderful people and they have so little. I have so much. I’m so selfish with my resources. I want to do more to help. But that’s just one family. How can I help more? Is anything I’m really doing helping? I want to maximize the time I have to make the biggest dent in the world of hurting and pain. Not knowing how… feeling helpless.

My mom reminded me to use the gifts I already have, particularly telling peoples’ stories, to advocate for change. My body stopped shaking from crying and I took a deep breath in. Okay, Sarah…. you can do this. Sharing stories might not seem like a lot, but keep doing it.

An hour later a beloved friend wrote on my Facebook wall and told me she missed reading my blog. A few hours later another friend told me the exact same thing. Okay that’s not a coincidence. I love meeting new people, hearing their stories and sharing them. I’m going to do it more. That’s one thing I can do to be the change I want to see in this world.

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deepest gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” – Frederick Buechner 

What’s your deepest gladness and how can you use it to meet the world’s deepest hunger?


6 Responses to “Pumpkin pie and cockroaches”

  1. heidiwhitey Says:

    I’m so proud of you and so moved to be a part of what God is doing through your surrendered life. A million hugs.

  2. I wanted you to know how much i appreciated your post. the work we do at ACC is something special, and we all feel blessed to be a apart of it. I am glad you got to get a slice of the joy, sadness, and redemption that we all feel daily working with these wonderful people. Thank you for your blog post. Please let me know what apartment you dropped them at– i will call the building management and make sure the infestation gets attention. Unfortunately, our limited resources cause us to house people in less than ideal situations, but we do the best we can to address these issues and hope people can eventually gain enough income form employment to move into better conditions. I hope you will consider getting involved with us– we have new volunteer orientation every Tuesday at 5 pm at 5250 Leetsdale Drive.
    best wishes,

    Jennifer Gueddiche
    Director, ACC

    • simpleimperfectionist Says:

      Hi, Jennifer! Nice to “meet” ya. 🙂 I’ll shoot you an email and gets some more info on working with y’all. I’m so proud of all the good work you’re doing in this community and the lives of so many refugees.

  3. javier Gaspar Says:


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