There was a time when I wrote about praying for God to teach me to be patient. Someone left a comment saying, “Be careful what you wish for.” I can safely say several years and a good dose of mid-twenties-maturity later, I am a considerably patient person. I still drive too fast. I still burn with anger when I see someone hurting an animal or a child. I stand over the rows at the community garden, looking at the tiny buds and think “Grow already!” But I now realize very little in life happens on any sort of controllable schedule. It just happens. And learning to be patient is critical for surviving the realization that your naivete and innocence will carry you only so far.
This week I was working with an Iraqi refugee family in their apartment in central Phoenix. The mother of four desperately described how she’d lived in Syria for two years in a camp after escaping Basra with her children. Her husband, Egyptian by birth, couldn’t join them at the camp and isn’t eligible for resettlement at this time. Paperwork keeps them apart, prevents him from watching as his four young children adapt to this new life, learn a new language, cry for their home. She’s been without him for years, raising these children, trying to keep her heritage and their family together as best as she can.
I listened to her describe how much she missed him, how he knew how to handle the children, how she just wanted her children to be safe in America and that they must grow up to become doctors and engineers. These are professions always in need. These are jobs that will provide for their family. These are lives that will be much more secure than those they fled.
By the end of the conversation, she told me she’d return to Iraq with her boys if her husband isn’t able to find a way to join them. She simply cannot live without him, even if it means returning to the chaos. Crossing every professional boundary, I held her, with tears running down her cheeks. I told her I’d pray for her family. I’d do everything I could to help. She kept whispering, “Inshallah. Inshallah.” If God wills it to be.
One of my vocab words this week is eleemosynary, which means relating to charity. The root comes from eleos — or pity. The wordsmiths got this one wrong. Charity isn’t about pity or sorrow. It is about the joy of helping those in need and making both lives a bit better in the process. There need not be pity in charity, but there must be kindness, hope and love. I most certainly do not pity this family. Instead, I am quite hopeful the will once again be whole and be so here, in the relative security of America.