Monday, December 5, 2011


There is an Ethiopian man in my program at work who is really too young to be in the program but comes anyway because he hasn't been able to find a job with enough hours to fill up his days. He comes to hang out with his older buddies in the program and to help me out. He's a saint of a person. I wrote about him earlier this year in this post.

My children had to get piggy banks to hold all the dollar bills and coins he has given them.

He grew the garden out back at my workplace and never ate a single bite; he gave it all away.

Back home in Ethiopia, he worked for a religious high school starting out as a volunteer elementary school teacher and eventually becoming the guy in charge of the dairy farm, seed nursery, vegetable farm, and supply store. In the years he was there, he doubled the number of cows and increased revenue of the store so much that the college was able to hire new teachers to educate the growing student body. He did this. The headmaster of the college also now lives here in Oregon and told me that all this is true.

I know all of this because I'm trying to help him find a job. We wrote his resume several weeks ago and have been getting it to as many places as we can. He is beyond competent; as an employee, he surpasses expectations and becomes a servant leader. I have never known anyone like him.

Yet I have failed in finding him a job. Every place we go to together, we are greeted by surly managers who treat him as if his presence in their place of business is ruining their day. I am extremely discouraged about this today.

This morning, we met at a nation-wide thriftstore (whose name I will not mention, but if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I shop here a lot....though not anymore after today) to drop off his application, resume, and letters of reference. The Ethiopian woman who had given me the application the week before was there and called her manager to the front so she could take the information from my client.

We waited and waited and waited. Finally, a very huffy woman appeared, staring us down as she came to us. I asked if she was the manager (since she didn't bother to introduce herself), and she corrected me, "Yes, I am the store supervisor. What do you need?"

She then complained to us about how she can't get her job done if the cashiers call her to the front "every ten minutes" to take another job application. We never asked her to come there; it was the cashier's idea, a point I didn't bother to tell her.

We thanked her for coming up to the front to take the information and she said she'd look at the application. My hopes are low. I felt embarrassed by this woman, by her surly attitude, by this city I live in that seems to be full of "supervisors" who refuse to treat people with even the tiniest shred of respect.

My client and I walked outside and I apologized to him for yet another disrespectful, rude potential employer. He faces this everywhere we go, and I'm tired of it. I have known what it's like to look for a job in a foreign country, but I never faced this level of rudeness that he has. Is it because he is African? Is that all they see? Is it because he is shy? I try to get him to take the initiative to introduce himself to these people, but he always makes me do it. Of course he's intimidated by these horrible people! I would be too! And every last one of them has been horrible, terrible, no-good, God-awful. Awful. Horrendous. Smelly.

So I have a hard time letting these things go. I'm going to stew over it the rest of today I'm sure. A pastor told me once that I have "an overdeveloped sense of justice." Over twenty years later, I'm still not sure what to think about that description of my personality. I just know that I get a knot in the pit of my stomach when I see someone like this angelic client of mine having door after door shut in his face. I feel it viscerally, in my core, an unease and sick feeling that this man is not getting the opportunity he deserves, that rude people who know nothing of the suffering he has endured and overcome have power over him.

He is the faithful servant who took the little he was given and multiplied it.

So why is he not being given the chance here?

The life of the immigrant, refugee, one seeking political or religious asylum is a life of endurance and hardship, and I am honored to work with them. Today I simply feel embarrassed by this city I live in and frustrated that a very deserving individual spends his days doing little when he could do so much.


Abby/Roger said...

I think this blog post should be put in the editorial section of your local newspaper. Your city needs to know how they are treating people. Yes, it is a tough economy. That is no excuse for bad manners. And, sadly, racism is very much alive and well in our country. I watched The Help in a theater yesterday and cried my way through 80 percent of it. No, it is no longer the 1960s, but there is much injustice remaining.

Sue said...

I am so sad reading this post. So. very sad. And I am so sorry for your client and for you, as his advocate.

Sha Zam- said...

I agree with Abby & Roger. In fact it should be in the Times of every major city! May I share it?

Evelyn said...

Powerful post. Americans have no idea of their privilege and of the amount of injustice pointed at immigrants in this country. Sickening, really.

Bridget said...

Oh this post makes me so, so sad. I am so sorry.

jen said...

Lori, your heart is beautiful. I hope the hard work will pay off for both of you.

Christine said...

Lori, please send it to the newspaper. Please.

Danni and Tommy said...

Heartbroken for him. For you. Love your heart.

hotflawedmama said...

I agree about the editorial comment.

And this literally shatters my heart, I can feel it.

My prayers for him and for you.