Thursday, December 4, 2014

A couple of nights ago, we had the unique opportunity to dine in the home of a sweet family from Fallujah.  They fled to our Kurdish village a few months prior with hopes of keeping their family safe…a big responsibility the father Muhamad was forced to take on.

Let me just be clear, they have nothing.

Greeted with kisses and smiles, we walked into their rented home of concrete and mud walls. The wife quickly pulled down some cushions for us to sit on.  No matter the current circumstances they now find themselves in, they had guests to entertain. The room was neat and orderly, functioning both as the space for eating as well as sleeping, which was evident by the blankets and pillow neatly stacked in the corner.

As we distributed the fresh flat bread, kebabs and sodas, the children waited patiently. Bags of rice piled behind us made me grateful that we were able to add some meat to their diet.  I looked toward the baby hoping for a smile, but she clung tightly to mama, whimpering until I looked away. It’s a family. Arab and Muslim, raised in the thick of the violence we see on our screens, yet a loving, tightly knit family nonetheless.   

Divided by strips of plastic places between us, males sat on one side, and all females opposite them. Arabic, Kurdish, Spanish, English, and Farsi floated through our dinner conversation representing a beautiful spread of ethnic groups and colors.

We laughed at the combination of languages and hand gestures we were using to communicate. The children and father were excited to use the English they had learned in school. The eldest daughter, though veiled, was not the least bit shy. Bright brown eyes and a huge white smile, her confidence soared as she was able to converse in little patches throughout the evening. “Are you in school now”, I asked while trying to pull from Arabic I haven’t used much since Egypt. “No, school here is in Kurdish, so I don’t attend.” A difficult reality for refugee life. 

The mother slipped away for a few moments, returning with hot cups of tea which she gracefully passed out to each of us. “Where is the heater we brought you earlier today?” They smiled and explained that their neighbors needed it more than they did. Our mouths dropped. The evenings are getting colder, and it won’t be long before they are going wish they had that heater.  I am sure they are well aware of that fact, but passed it on regardless.

Our evening came to a close, and we headed home. My mind was going… their smiles, their generosity, their hope. Honestly, it scares me when I think about being sucked back in to a society that has everything, but lacks such joy. We are so busy trying to prevent suffering, that we miss so much to be grateful for all around us…even amidst tough times. 

I don’t know what it is like to live what these families are living through…forced from their homes just to survive, for I am simply here witnessing it. But each night I go back to my warm house of hot running water, a fully stocked fridge,  lacking absolutely nothing. 

I don’t understand them, but there is so much I would like to learn from them. Everyone I meet wants to go to America, yet there is so much my country can learn from people like this.