Simeon, a recent immigrant to the U.S. from Ethiopia, looked around the room, quickly crossed himself, then softly began to tell his story of being approved as a homeowner for a Habitat for Humanity home here in DuPage County. His solemnity, sincerity and gratitude melded so beautifully together that his words seemed reverent, even worshipful. And they were.
I serve on the Board of DuPage Habitat for Humanity. I was at a breakfast with some friends from Blanchard to help them learn the story of what Habitat is doing to serve the underserved population of lower income families in this county (the 19th wealthiest in the U.S.), to help them become homeowners without crushing them financially.
Simeon, is a father of one of those families, having left the home of his birth to live as a refugee in Dubai for six years until recently arriving in the U.S. to start a new life here–married, with twins on the way, Simeon drives a taxi from 4:30 to noon, then works another job from noon to 9:30 every day–caring for the needs of his current family, while sending money back home to support his extended family members in Ethiopia.
Simeon didn’t complain about his life or his long work hours. Instead as his already-consecrated story continued at our breakfast, he spoke of being so impressed with Habitat volunteers who freely gave their time to work alongside him to build his family’s new home in West Chicago. He repeated over and over again how moved he was at other people’s kindness demonstrated by their sweat equity investment in his home-to-be–without expecting anything in return.
I’d never met Simeon before this morning. But I already love him for many reasons: for his profound gratitude, his work ethic and the way he began to tell his story today. I don’t know if I’ll ever be as grateful–or as reverent–I can learn from a man who’s as worshipful with his words before spoken as he was. I have the terrible habit of running off at the mouth–being too quick to speak, too slow to listen. Perhaps it’s an Ethiopian Christian discipline to cross yourself before you speak. That’s instructive to my own faith. What a lovely, worshipful way to invite Christ’s presence to be the channel by which our words flow out of our mouths…
To pause–even externally by crossing ourselves–to consecrate our words before spoken…
Simeon’s been like David to me today when he spoke so long ago in Psalm 19:14 (NIV),
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.