"Be nice." Words shared by children during Temple Lutheran's Sermon on the Steps this past Sunday. It was their response when asked what someone should do if they met a Ukrainian refugee, new to their school or community.
Leading the sermon was Iryna Kokhanevych and Susan Fink, from the Nationality Service Center, who came to thank those who raised money for Ukrainian refugees during Vacation Bible school. The children listened intently to Iryna, who left Ukraine a few months ago, leaving her family behind, to help others in the United States who have been ripped away from their homeland. "Be understanding. Be a friend," she shared, adding that young people arriving to their school may feel embarrassed, anxious or scared. And that it's important to show them kindness.
She thanked them and the church for their financial support. She thanked them for taking the time to learn about what was happening in Ukraine. She thanked them for telling the truth about what is really going on.
Somehow, I felt it wasn't the children that needed to hear their message the most, but those of us in the pews. Those of us who sometimes forget that offering a stranger a welcoming smile, a seat at the table, and a place in the community unconditionally is at the core of our faith. Iryna's words of gratitude for telling the truth about what is really going on reverberated within the sanctuary and following the service it was clear that her words would make their way out the doors and into our community. We were so moved by their visit and Iryna's willingness to share her story. We are grateful to her for reminding us that we all need to be nice. Be understanding. And to be a friend.