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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Help (02/20/06)

TITLE: Two Women on the Outside
By Sylvia Olberding


Our individual cries for help, whether painful, fearful, or sorrowful, whether in loud wailing or in quiet inner lamenting, these cries are what unite us across racial, cultural, and religious boundaries.
That Turkish woman, Seher, who lives next door, the one who doesn’t speak or write English very well, she wanted my help to write papers for one of her classes towards an associate’s degree.
“Sure,” I told her, thinking that editing and proofreading her work would be all she required. There was not much else I was willing to offer. We were new to this place, I needed to get out and get acquainted with the area. I needed to find my niche here. I needed my time. Helping her polish her work was not too much a chunk out of my time.
She came over one afternoon with her writing assignment and her choice of subject. Analyzing the institutional discourse within marriage was our work for the next few hours as we waded our way through her rough draft. As we discussed and wrote about the various difficulties of marriage, our talk progressed towards our own personal lives.
She shared her difficulties of being a Muslim woman married to a Christian man who did not practice his faith. She bemoaned how he did not understand her devotion to her faith and his lack of support of her practicing it. She talked about growing up without her parents, both died when she was young, and the difficulties of her teenage years trying to fit in. She was sad. She told me that even now, she feels like an outsider.
“Oh, but I don’t want to waste your time with my life,” she said as her soul cried out for the help of an understanding heart.
There we sat, side by side, a Turkish woman and an American woman, a Muslim and a Catholic. There she sat, pouring out the pains of her life. Little did she know that her plea for help was the answer to my own hearts sighing cry for someone to hear, to listen, and to understand.
When I was young, I was that American girl who lived in a small, tight knit German village that did not speak German very well. When my family moved back to the U.S., I was that weird kid who just moved from Germany and talked funny when speaking English. In college, I was that Roman Catholic who needed conversion to “Bible Christianity.” In my adulthood, I have struggled to remain true to my faith. Even now, I feel like an outsider.
“We are both outsiders, then,” I said to her.
“God has brought us together,” she said
I smiled at her and only then noticed that she sat right under the crucifix hanging on the wall behind her.
Christ came for us all, for everyone from all corners of the Earth. No cry for help goes unheard. Not even the cries from two “outsiders” from opposite ends of the globe go unnoticed. He even ensured we were on an even playing field, for Seher and I, are neighbors in the foreign country of Japan.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Edy T Johnson 02/28/06
A wonderful example of "Help" being a two-way street! You tell a good story.