Frontiers of Justice, Travelogue

You Are Welcome!

Tanya Davis, a high school teacher from Sacramento, wrote this reflection after spending more than two weeks visiting Ghana and Burkina Faso through CRS and NCEA‘s Frontiers of Justice program.

"You are welcome!" What does this mean? In American culture we usually shorten the phrase to "You’re welcome." The vast majority of time when I reply "You’re welcome," I say it because that is just what you say as a response to someone after a thank you; I don’t give it much thought I just say it.

However, I think I can speak for all of us in the Frontiers of Justice 2008 delegation when I say that ,"You are welcome!" took on a whole new meaning while in Ghana. Whenever we encountered new people their very first greeting was always "You are welcome!" with the warmest smiles. At first that seemed out of context and a bit strange, yet we quickly grew accustomed to it and we truly knew that, yes we were welcome!

We were indeed welcome in Ghana. Sometimes, we witnessed the "You are welcome!" visually. We were constantly greeted by the children alongside the road or working in the fields with a huge grin and an exuberant hand waving hello. We were welcomed with a round of applause at mass. We were welcomed in schools and homes. We were welcomed in the most remote villages.

We were welcomed by the CRS staff especially Thomas Awiapo who coordinated our Ghana visit and the excellent CRS drivers Baba, Williams and Jonathan who did not fail to greet us "You are welcome!" each morning as we set off on another day of travel.

At the sites we visited (schools, orphanages, HIV centers, diocesan offices) we were greeted with a personal handshake. This handshake was full of life, love and warmth. The phrase "You are welcome!" was repeated time after time, from person to person. Yes, we were strangers in a new land but we instantly felt we were part of one human family.

Finally, we were welcomed by the people CRS serves—the most vulnerable and under served in society. Even from those that have little, they welcomed us as if we were long lost family. At the end of our visit we were given guinea fowl eggs, peanuts and even live chickens. Yes, we were welcomed by the most inspiring, hardworking, hope-filled people we’ve ever met even if they struggle to live day by day.

Now the phrase "You are welcome!" is no longer foreign or unfamiliar. It is one that is enduring, real and an invitation to take part in a family that extends past our own families, nations, ethnicities and religions. "You are welcome!" truly embodies the CRS mission of global solidarity.

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