Encouragement 

May 2015, Roma and her four daughters fled war in Yemen. Jammed together with 350 people, mostly women and children, Roma’s family settled into a Djibouti refugee camp, where one of her daughters nearly died from a bacterial infection.

I first met Roma a month or so ago at the Love > Fear gallery opening. Her art – vases made from threads of magazine and newspaper pages – sold out.

The morning after the opening, I talked one of her daughters, who serves as a translator for Fuse. This is what she said:

“I haven’t seen my mom so happy since we left Yemen. Back home, she was a teacher making an impact on so many lives. Now, she feels isolated. She can’t speak the language, has no driver’s license, doesn’t know many people, and struggles with despair.”

On October 19, the story of Roma and other refugees will be shared at the Love > Fear event. Asheville filmmakers, bands and refugee agencies will come together to tell a story of the displaced, currently numbering 65 million people globally.

I can tell you now: The event almost didn’t happen.

In my leadership, I frequently flipped the equation: Fear > Love.

When the vision crystallized into momentum, the intertwined twins of fear and shame whispered in my right and left ear:

You can’t.

You shouldn’t.

Followed by a chorus of what-ifs.

What-if you fail?

What-if you throw an event and no one comes?

What-if you are not good enough?

Through the relationships of the Fuse community, I began to understand how courage roots in encouragement. Not the courage to stare down fear, but to step into it, believing love >.

Recently, I visited Roma in her apartment. Through the translation of one of her daughters, we shared a conversation as she continued to create new vases for the Love > Fear event.

When I pointed out my favorite work of art, she gave it to me as a gift.

At the same time, we touched our hearts.

From someone steeped in courage, I sensed anew the power of encouragement.

— Rob Wilkins