Just before 5 p.m. yesterday afternoon, I received an email from Anna Pernell. It caught my attention, even though I was meeting with my Cooperative Venturing Team, which is strategizing to launch a new biomedical device company currently spinning out from the University of Utah. It caught my attention because Anna is with the International Rescue Committee.
The International Rescue Committee is a service group that helps give refugees a new hope and life in the United States. I’ve worked with it as a volunteer advisor to help support new entrepreneurs for several years. Anna’s email was a request for help, which seemed fitting to receive while engaged in Cooperative Venturing. Its timing helped me to expand my incomplete impression of who a refugee is and where they come from.
Perhaps, too often, we think of refugees who have come here as foreigners, strangers, completely new to our cities, towns, and neighborhoods, with no connection to who is here and what they’ve created over generations. Yet, as my eyes raised above my hand-held computer to settle on the people gathered around a large conference room table, another cooperative venture emerged as a truth in hiding.
Earlier in the week, I stole a moment to catch up with another friend who seemed gloomier than his usual demeanor. As we sat talking together, he became an audible artist creating a panorama of how his life has been changed by the taking-in of his daughter and her young children. He described how he has assumed a new, intimate role in the nurturing and teaching of his grandkids. My heart was touched as he explained how living together has changed him and them. How they are now much more of one heart, simply because he has allowed them to become prominent partakers in a newly forged, cooperative venture into a brighter future. Our visit together opened my mind to the possibility that mutual, brighter futures can be created in our community whether refugees come to us from Colorado, California, Nigeria, Iraq or our own families.
Thirty percent of all American households are now multigenerational. That means at least 30 percent of us could be characterized as being smaller, yet just as important, rescue committees engaged in cooperative venturing. My own experience has allowed me to be of service to immigrants from foreign countries, different states, cities and even family members who lost their home to a fire. All of this has led me to understand that there are many more refugees needing shelter, love and assistance than I had previously imagined.
As my imaginings waned and my focus returned to Cooperative Venturing, I glanced back down at my hand-held computer. It was still just before 5 p.m. Anna Pernell’s email had caught my attention. And I’m glad it did, because, it was an invitation to you and me to recognize that we are surrounded by many kinds of refugees who need us, just as much as we need them.
Lynn Butterfield lives in Erda and is a managing broker for a real estate company.