Before I get into the real reason for this post, an update since my last one. (Grad school is eating up a lot of time. It’s been a while since I posted anything…) Yesterday was my boss’s first day back to work. Considering what happened, he is in remarkably good shape. He can take the stairs and carry things. His gait is slightly off, and his speech isn’t quite as clear as it was before the stroke, but those are things that people who have never met him might not find noticeable. He was very lucky. We’re glad that he’s back, and he plans to stick around long enough for me to finish school. Plans have not changed.
Now to the reason I needed to post today.
Anna made a new friend last night. His name is Hassam. (I hope I spelled that right. I didn’t see how it was written on his name tag, at least not in any memorable way.) The library has been facilitating a wonderful series of “Get to Know Your Muslim Neighbors” in collaboration with one of the churches in town and with the local Islamic center. Last night, we were invited to dinner before prayers.
The tables were set for eight, and we mixed and mingled and tried to sit with people we didn’t know. Hassam wound up sitting next to Anna. In usual three-year-old fashion, she acted shy at first. But once we started to serve the delicious meal of bread, hummus, falafel, chicken, salad, and rice, he absolutely charmed her. And vice versa.
My mom asked what brought him to Kalamazoo.
“It’s a long story,” he said. “I came from Istanbul. I’m from Syria. I’m a refugee.”
We didn’t push. We agreed that it certainly must be a long story. And then we ate and talked and talked and ate. About what? We talked about food. We talked about school. We talked about Kalamazoo.
We did not talk about our differences. Why should we? We had too much to learn about each other, the eight of us at our table.
We did not talk about the war.
And then, late last night, long after Anna and I were home. After she’d moved from my bed back to her own, I got the news alert on my phone.
I don’t know what the solution is to the war in Syria. I don’t know if the United States has improved the situation or made it worse by dropping bombs last night. I do know that I am relieved for Hassam that he is here, that he is safe. And my heart aches for those he had to leave behind.
I didn’t need to meet him to know that those being hurt in Syria are people. I already knew that. But it was particularly heartbreaking to have these two events occur the same evening. I know that I can’t fix everything. I just wish that I could.