On one level, Thanksgiving can be interpreted as a “portmanteau”. That is, the combination of two words and both of their meanings to create something new; Think “Netflix”, “cheeseburgers”, or even a Puggle.
Just giving thanks? Sure. But for best results, combine both meanings to create something functionally different.
With this in mind, the offices of HireAHelper planned one unforgettable night where they gave to others in need while practicing profound gratefulness for all their company. In the process, they created something far more meaningful.
A local southern Californian church group is seeking to help resettled refugees who have been displaced from Syria and its neighboring countries. Many refugees are still lacking meaningful resources to assimilate into their new surroundings with little to no business connections, a strong language barrier, and the absence of simple normalcy.
HireAHelper CEO Mike Glanz is part of that group. Upon discovering his potential direct connection to the international crises, Glanz jumped on the opportunity to make a foreign issue a personal one.
“When I see things online, on Facebook … how people talk about closing our borders, and all of the fear surrounding helping out those who are in desperate need, it makes me sad because (the fearful) don’t know those people”, says Glanz. “The main reason they are afraid is because they don’t know them.”
A group of over 20 Syrian refugees currently living in El Cajon, CA bussed to HireAHelper headquarters Tuesday evening, where they were met with a sprawling Thanksgiving feast. After a brief meet and greet at the elevator, families mixed in with HireAHelper employees for dinner, each of the tables stationed with a translator. The Thanksgiving meal was a hit of course, but attendees discuss the event as more of a conduit for connecting real faces to the international crises. This event was more about establishing a community than just a feeding.
“There was nothing different about our guests apart from culture”, says HireAHelper employee Alan Lopez. “I met doctors, mothers, construction workers, engineers and children. This was a typical Thanskgiving dinner, other than the stories I heard. Their situations forced each one of them into unbelievable odds and it’s shameful we had to meet under such strenuous circumstances. But I’m glad they’re here with us in San Diego.”
Recent electoral events have put that status of many Syrian refugees in question. Events like this one hope to relieve the stress of both American citizens and immigrants alike.
Says one dinner guest speaking anonymously through a translator, “We cannot express our gratitude enough to the citizens of America for helping us. But we are here now to work and to become part of the community. We want to be a part of the community that helped save us.”
Continues Glanz, “We got to do dinner, dancing and video games. I really wanted to do my part to help introduce my friends, family and employees to these amazing people who have been through so much.”
As is always the goal of Thanksgiving, give thanks. But as events like this prove, outreach is the first step in creating community. And as many attest, family is the most important aspect of any Thanksgiving dinner.
To learn more about the refugee crises, about what it means and how you can help, please visit the Mercy Corp’s helpful summarization on their website, and check out the KPBS video below.
Photography by Nate Riedel