Roger Mehling and I organized an English conversation group more than seven years ago, when a Chinese student, attending an ESL class at the Adult Learning Center in Duluth, asked if I could help his wife, a Ph.D. student at UMD, with English. The first group consisted of Chinese graduate students and visiting scholars. Roger and I have continued meeting with graduate students, visiting scholars, and immigrants to our community since that first meeting. We have had members of our group from Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and all parts of Asia. These are some of the kindest, most thoughtful and intelligent people. Though their religions vary from Christian, Muslim, Buddhist to agnostic, their core values are the same. Their families are very important, they care about their fellow human beings, they want to contribute to society, and they want good jobs to provide for themselves and their families. Many of them wanted to stay in the United States but because of the policies of the Trump administration have not been able to do so. What a loss of talent!
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought out xenophobia in some people, especially toward Asians. A postdoc student and a visiting scholar, friends of mine, from China, wrote home to ask for masks. When they got their masks, they donated them to the hospitals here in town as well as to my husband and me. What a wonderful thing to do.
I urge everyone, when you see someone from another country, remember: treat them with respect; they are our brothers and sisters. They might be the scientist who discovers a treatment for COVID-19 or the doctor who treats you when you are sick or just another person like you or me trying to cope in these difficult times.