A Refugee, An Immigrant and a Pilgrim…

…are remarkably similar, if we think about it. Each one is a person moving through a reality not of their own making. Each one needs some kind of motion, some plan of action and, frankly, some help along the way. Since each one moves through a reality they do not make each may move physically, or emotionally or spiritually. Their movement may require a sea part for them, or they may make the transition in the blink of an eye.

“I suddenly realized how fragile I was in reality,” a college professor told me. “I was in the middle of a class I had taught a hundred times in my seventy plus years. At this moment, I fell apart. I let the class go and went to my Dean and told him I was done. I never taught another class.”

A Refugee, like an Immigrant, like a Pilgrim may feel her reality so altered she is redefined atomically. Perhaps she is at the point where she can no longer play the powerless victim. the passive observer or the hapless shadow dweller. She must go over something, somewhere to provide for her loved ones or just find peace and self-respect.

In Sanskrit the word for a Pilgrim Site actually means “a crossing.” When we come to a crossing we may be in the presence of a real teacher. For the sake of this discussion we define a teacher as someone who wishes to impart knowledge in order to improve the performance of others. A Refugee, an Immigrant, a Pilgrim cannot change a bit at a time, incrementally, with one foot in past certainty and other held tentatively outside the circle but still in the air. A Refugee cannot return to the “good old days.” He must make deep, real change in person, as well as in place. He cannot protect himself, his family, his way of life.

His small child dead near the water’s edge may be the most poignant image of his life. His condition will show the world his weakness.

A Pilgrim on a pilgrimage announces by that pilgrimage that his life needs improvement. Why take the trip at all, if he does not seeks a change? He moves about in a reality he did not make. Why is a Pilgrim more acceptable than a Refugee, more desirable than an Immigrant? Perhaps we prefer Pilgrims because no force within or without forces him to leave. He is more about pull than push. If we can see ourselves as Pilgrims, we might be better suited for the wave of Immigration and the impoverished band of Refugees coming our way.

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