One night this week, I heard a refugee from Rwanda tearfully speak publicly about how he and his five children were almost homeless after he lost his job. He got help from the amazing nonprofit I work for and saved his house. To go from refugee camp to home-owner in the U.S. to homeless in the U.S. is a tough idea to grasp.
I drove a Congolese elder home to her housing complex. She sat in my car, and we practiced counting from one to ten in English and Swahili. All I can say is "asante" in her language and that's about all she can say in mine too: thank you. We drove past a public park where a man had his hands behind his head, surrounded by cops with their guns and flashlights pointed at him. My elder began pointing at this and sort of laughed while shaking her head. A few blocks away, we saw two boys walking in the street, and again she pointed. This was her grandson and his friend, so they jumped in my car. She invited me in, so I met her daughter and the rest of her grandchildren, one of whom seems to be pretty severely handicapped and another who talked my ear off about school in the U.S. and gardening in Africa. His little sister was holding my pinkie finger and twirling around me, hugging my legs, and looking at me with snark in her dark eyes. I told her she should be an actress, but she said she wants to be a doctor. She is six. As I left, a gaggle of American kids were hanging out about forty feet away on their bikes in the almost-darkness and I heard one of them say, "Yeah, that's were he lives," referring to the grandson I drove home. I wondered what that was about.
I heard a story today about this stoner sort of guy "who could drink you under the table" who dove headfirst into a snowdrift while out snowboarding. He was without oxygen for twelve minutes until someone with a shovel passed by (what are the chances?) and got him out and to a hospital where a doctor said he wouldn't make it through the night. He ended up making it through the night and then in a coma for two weeks. When he started to wake up, the first thing he asked about were his schools. No one knew what he was talking about. It's all he was saying, "the schools, the schools." His sister explained that he had been sponsoring a bunch of kids in India to go to school, and he was worried about what might happen to him if their sponsor died. No one but his sister knew about what he'd been doing in India. He said he wasn't worried too much about himself because he had "2,000 people praying for me in India," so he knew he'd be fine.
What's it all about, mister? My sister, my brother, the others? It's one life we're living here, that's it. Ain't gonna get me another.