Friday, October 9, 2015

So I pray . . .

I can't remember her name . . .

She was my neighbor. Her husband had a doctorate in civil engineering, but they were living next to us in student housing. They had two small brown-skinned children. And she was kind.

I remember the day she bought a couch from an Eastern Indian family that she had to leave outside the door of the apartment as she fumigated it. I remember how it boggled my mind when she shared how scared her boys were of the African-Americans in their school because their skin was darker and they were different. I remember the pen she gave me for graduation, a gift from her home country.

But what I remember most is the day she talked about leaving Afghanistan. Her husband received his doctorate from the University of Colorado and they had offered him a job. But they chose to return home to Afghanistan because they wanted to help their country. After all compared to most, they were rich. She told me they even had two sets of china. But when the Russians invaded they had to leave. So they bundled up their boys and consolidated their worldly positions into two boxes and ran. First to Europe and then, thanks to his education and usefulness, to the US. The remainder of her family were scattered across the globe. They went wherever they could safely travel and stayed wherever they could get visas.

One family scattered throughout the world.

It was at that point that this white middle-class American girl asked the stupidest question: "Will you ever return home?"

She looked at me solemnly and said simply, "No, they'd kill us."

A lot has happened since that conversation standing outside student housing at Auburn in 1982. Taliban. 9/11. Our invasion of Afghanistan.

So much has happened. And while I can't remember her name, I think of her and wonder where she is and how she is doing and what she thinks of all that has transpired. I think of her sons, who would be adults with families of their own now.

And this morning as I read Warsan Shire's powerful poem, Home, I remember the pain and the loss. And I know that I can't begin to understand the plight of refugees. And I pray that I will never have to understand. But I also ask that I never forget her pain in my desire to think this is not my problem.

So I pray . . .

1 comment:

Kim said...

Lovely. I worked for a ChE professor a couple semesters, editing textbooks he wrote. He felt he needed editors bc he was a Russian Jew who learned English from a dictionary in confinement. He workd 17 hrs/day, 6 days/wk, trying to make up for the time stolen from him as the Russian government forced him to work on projects not of his own choosing. He was a brilliant man, who as a boy of 4 saw his mother hanged in the town square, bc she was a Jew. When he was finally allowed to leave, he did - as from the jaws of a shark. Some of his research was smuggled out by others a few pages at a time. Much he recreated here - his specialty was mass transfer in fluidized beds. His office windows were all taped over for her feared the KGB was still after his work. Perhaps they were. He was settled in a new land, as you said, bc of his education and usefulness, but also homeless in a very real sense. He was a good man of steel with soft edges. I was a lazy college kid looking for an easy A. He taught me so much, and today, reading your post, I think again of him.