By Darby Ratliff, Co-Director

Left to Right: Dr. Stephen Chanderbhan, Co-Director; Sarah Signorino, Co-Director Emerita; Darby Ratliff, Co-Director; Dana Macchia, Graduate Assistant

It’s been almost three weeks since the Be the Light team ventured to the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (IFTJ). Every year, the Teach-In brings together thousands of students, faculty, staff, and other social justice-oriented folks to Washington, D.C. to talk about and advocate for social justice reform. The Teach-In concludes with an advocacy day on Capitol Hill, where students go and speak with their representatives regarding issues like immigration and criminal justice reform.

This year, it was especially poignant to talk about refugees as the migrant caravan approaches the U.S. border. There’s much to do to advocate for them, and there’s much to do for the immigrant and refugee families in our own communities. We can call our congressional representatives, and we can continue to showcase the wonderful things these individuals bring to our community. As the holiday season approaches, it’s easy to get caught up in the commercial hustle and bustle. Yet, let’s think more locally and shop responsibly.¬†Part of what makes the Be the Light Youth Theology Institute so great is our focus on Buffalo and the lights and shadows of the Queen City.

Nadeen, owner of Macrame by Nadeen in the West Side Bazaar

Some of the easiest lights to see are the incredible refugee-owned businesses popping up in Buffalo. During Be the Light this year, we were able to bring students to the West Side Bazaar, an incubator for refugee-owned businesses. The goods and food are both affordable, and it gives directly back to the New Americans settling in our city. Thousands of refugees and immigrants have settled in Buffalo, making our small city their home. The night before our trip to the Bazaar, students heard from Nadeen Yousef, who spoke about coming from Iraq. You can listen to her speak on the Buffalo-centric Rise Collaborative podcast:

Buffalo – and many other cities – are awash with locally owned businesses that contribute the livelihood of many, and sometimes, they are more expensive than running to your local Walmart or to Amazon. However, if you are able, it’s always nice to shop local and to shop these kind individuals who put so much energy into something that they love. That’s what the holiday season is about after all. I love going into local shops and chatting with the owners and staff members, learning just a little bit more about this small bookshop or that adorable jewelry store, even if I don’t buy something.

Everyone has a story of how they got to be where they are. Nadeen told us a little bit about hers when she visited us this summer for Be the Light. Why not welcome these stories into our collective narrative? Why not welcome those migrants coming to our borders? Why not welcome all who are different and who are in need?

This year, as we shop for the holidays, let’s try to shop responsibly and let us think of all those in need this season.