A Volunteer's Reflection
My 12-year-old son has volunteered at RILA clinics since nearly the start. He’s grown quite adept at setting up chairs in the client rooms, and his claim to fame is that he can carry six folding chairs at once. He’s also spent many hours with clients’ children playing games – Uno, foosball, and Jenga are favorites. My son hardly ever hesitates to say “yes” when I tell him twice a month he’s needed at a RILA clinic. He enjoys coming, and I think it’s because he understands deep down the intrinsic value of the people we serve and the legal advocacy work RILA does on their behalf. Recently my son had the opportunity to spend most of the evening at the reception desk with me.
He was there when one of our clients rolled into the church in his wheelchair for his work permit appointment. Hassan (not his real name), a young man from the Middle East, was partially paralyzed when he was shot by his government’s military during a peaceful protest of his country’s oppressive dictatorship. RILA is currently working with the Department of Homeland Security to expedite Hassan’s application for asylum.
Serving as the RILA receptionist that evening, I had the chance to welcome Hassan and check him in. In the process, I learned that he single handedly had made it to Arlington from an adjacent city using his wheelchair, Metrorail and the bus. It had taken nearly two hours, but he (like most of our clients) was not a minute late for his appointment. He was understandably quite proud of his feat. I invited Hassan to the fellowship hall for some dinner prepared by volunteers and asked my son to assist him. With only the slightest hesitation, my son agreed.
This was HUGE. Since he was quite young, my son has been uncomfortable around people who are outwardly disabled in some way. But next thing I know, my son and Hassan are returning together to the reception desk, where I cleared off a spot so that Hassan could enjoy his meal and we could pick up our conversation.
Before Hassan departed that evening, his paperwork was completed, a head shot was taken, and he was one step closer to securing legal, dignified employment. And that is my prayer, that some employer will see the worth in this determined young man who still has grit and a sparkle in his eye despite his difficult past and physical limitations. And my other prayer is that God will continue to use RILA to expand my son’s understanding of the world with all of its beauty and brokenness – and Jesus’s all-encompassing love.