Abdul is a “Mensch*”

            (* Yiddish – “a person of integrity and honor”).

-By Brandt Ross

This past Thanksgiving, we joined our daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren for a nice family Thanksgiving.  Earlier, our daughter had been in touch with a national organization doing outreach for refugees seeking to place them in homes for Thanksgiving.

The family who joined our celebration was an Afghan Muslim couple with two small children.  We had a wonderful celebration very much inspired by Abdul and his remarkable story.

Shortly after 9/11 when the U.S. attacked and occupied Afghanistan, Abdul found himself and his family in dire circumstances.  As a 14 year old, with a father unable to work, he desperately sought some way to support his family of seven.  He would go to the Army base; stand outside the chain link fence begging for work.  His persistence was rewarded and he was able to earn $2.00 per day picking up garbage and cigarette butts on the base grounds.  While a paltry sum in our eyes, he was ecstatic as it enabled him to provide food for the family. He was able to buy a book of English and gradually learn the language…..by learning, listening and speaking.

Because he spoke Pashto and Dari (the primary languages of Afghanistan), he was able to begin to help in translating for the military.  As he became more proficient, he was offered the job of a translator making $360 a month…..an amount that he could hardly conceive.   Abdul also confided to our son-in law that his work as translator and information gatherer likely saved lives of many Americans but that he did this work primarily to care for his family, not as a matter of right or wrong politics.

His translation and information gathering was done at considerable risk to him and family. His father (49) was murdered when Abdul was 19. “They” (probably the Taliban) came looking for him and killed his dad instead. Abdul said he missed these killers by only a few minutes.  He carries a big burden of his dad’s death that will only be relieved when he gets his extended family of about 16 into this country. He currently sends $600/month to support the family.

Concerning the election, he had nothing but good things, hope and confidence in the American system. He mentioned a couple of times about the three branches of government and checks and balances. (How many Americans could even name the three branches of Government?) There is no doubt in Abdul’s mind there is no place on earth he would rather be than in the U.S.  He said several times here that all people are human beings and deserving of peace and respect. When he said this, he put his hands together with a slight bow.

Eventually, he became a translator in Army Intelligence and became proficient in more languages.  In 2011, He married and was able to move to the U.S. where he now works for a resettlement organization and helps refugees with job placement in the Atlanta area.

Several years ago, as conditions in Afghanistan began to deteriorate, he was able to resettle his entire Afghan family from Afghanistan to India in a much safer environment.  Today, with his wife, and children age 5 and 3, he is looking forward to his earning his U.S. citizenship in mid-2017.  His story parallels the stories of our ancestors and their relentless persistence in the pursuit of freedom and happiness. Truly, Abdul is a “Mensch”.

An affiliate of Church World Service and Episcopal Migration Ministries
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