In the popular movie Frozen, Princess Ana thinks she’s found her one true love when she meets Prince Hans, a handsome man who seems to think exactly the same way she does. “I found my place\I see your face\It’s like nothing I’ve ever known before\Love is an open door,” they sing.
Peace of Thread brings together women from the West and women from the East, and sometimes it feels like we have the opposite experience of Ana and Hans. Instead of finding “mental synchronization” we often find culture clash. Things Western women take for granted, like shaking hands with the opposite sex or wearing shorts can be very taboo to our artisan threaders. Good intentions are one thing, but even accidental disrespect towards these women and their families can undermine Peace of Thread’s mission to forge cross-cultural friendships and build-up women’s confidence. As Dan, a man of our acquaintance who also works with refugees has said, “The door is half-open” when it comes to building relationships with people from other backgrounds. “And it can go all the way open or be closed tight depending on what you say and do.”
But love really is an open door. Americans can’t expect to get every aspect of Middle Eastern (or other foreign cultures where refugees may come from) “right,” but conveying that we care about our seamstresses can build a sense of trust in them. From a practical standpoint, American women who volunteer with Peace of Thread might convey caring by listening to a woman who’s had a rough day. It might be as simple as standing to greet her when she walks into a room or keeping eye contact with her while we’re chatting with her husband so that she knows we know she’s still there. When it comes to loving refuges and making them feel welcome in our country, the little things sometimes matter the
It’s hard for people who come to the United States from other countries to learn how to “fit in” and feel like they truly belong here. And it can be hard for Americans, who are used to doing things are own way, to learn how to embrace other cultures. But when women from all backgrounds take time to love one another, we begin (as Frozen says) to see each other’s’ faces. And that can be a wonderful thing.