Saturday, March 26, 2011

a lesson in geography & the reality of desparity... with an 8 year old child


Exhausted from a two day marathon trip with  my mother to visit my sister in up state New York, I dragged myself out of bed at 5:33am.  I had to take a family to Ann Arbor for a doctor's appointment at 10am and didn't have the directions or paperwork.  I got to the office by 6:15 to get the paperwork, directions and the van and to the family's apartment by 7.  We got to the appointment on time after 2 1/2 hours in the car and 20 minutes of walking around the hospital trying to find our way.

Because the woman who had the appointment doesn't hear very well, her sister-in-law had to come, which meant the baby had to come.  Because we left before school started the 8-year old niece had to come.  I spent the day in the waiting room with my little 8 year old friend and learned more than I had bargained for from a little girl who had seen more with her little eyes in 7 years than most of us have in our entire lives.

She's from Iraq and came here about 10 months ago.  When she arrived she knew little to no English.  She is now excelling in school and her English is exceptional.  The following is a dialogue of some of our conversation:

Her:  Do you speak my language?
Me: No but I know a few words.  

(we exchanged a few words and had a short lesson in Arabic)

Her: I can't write in my language.
Me: You should have your mom teach you.
Her: I love airplanes.
Me: Maybe you could fly them some day.
Her: Oh no that's too hard.
Me: You have so much time to learn.  You're so smart.  Look how much you have learned since I met you.  You can read and write and speak a new language.  Do you know math?
Her: Yes.

(insert Math competition here)

Me: I think you could do just about anything!

Her: I don't like my country.
Me: Why not?
Her: They kill people there.  Everywhere.  All the time.  It's bad.
Me:  I'm sorry.  Is it better here for you?
Her: Yes because they don't kill people here.  My country is bad.  It's a very bad place.
Me: I'm glad you like it here.
Her: I never want to go to Iraq.  They kill people there.

Looking across the room at a baby:

Her: They kill little babies like that in my country.

Me: What? Why?
Her: I don't know.  To take their hearts out and give them to people that don't have hearts.

We continued our conversations and went back and forth talking about killing people and growing up to be a doctor some day who wears a white coat.  We also looked at world maps on my Ipod.  She drew me a picture with a flower and a sticker on it that said "I love you.  You are so so cute."

Sometimes I don't like my job too much.  Days like yesterday make me realize I am a part of something meaningful and good.  

I know many people have different viewpoints on how our country should spend our money (or lack of).  I am too much human to ever think that we shouldn't continue to spend large sums of money helping people like this little girl and her family have a safe place to live and build a future.

I can't seem to put into words what this interaction made me feel.  I don't know that I have to.  I continue to wonder what her little eyes have seen.


  1. un abrazo rizitos... y un abrazo para tu nueva amiga.
    me gusta mucho como expresás en papel electrónico tus pensamientos y emociones, ojalá yo también pudiera hacerlo así de bonito. lo único que a mi me viene a la mente son malas palabras cuando veo las mierdas que ocurren en este planeta.

  2. just spent one cup of coffee catching up on your blogs. thoroughly enjoyed myself. love :)

  3. mynor - abrazo de oso. gracias por tus piropos. de acuerdo, odio esta planeta pero trato de recordar que el poquito de diferencia que yo pueda hacer es por lo menos algo y en la vida de alguien hace la diferencia aunque el mundo sigue siendo una mierda completa.

    linda - as you should. now i want coffee.

    love to both. love. amor. and besos.

  4. so I'm avoiding studying for a final tonight and I discovered your blog on facebook which has given me much procrastination fodder. so thanks!

    and also I'd like to say this story made me sad. but also hopeful because this story reminds me that the work we do is really, really important (though if often doesn't seem like it). and all our clients sadly have stories like those (though we don't get to hear them often). so I think we need to remember this story when we get discouraged with work so we are reminded that every day we get to help people who have suffered greatly make a new life here and help give them hope and a future.

    You can't say that about many jobs I think...

  5. Oh Crystal - This could be a problem if you ever want to get any of your homework done. Thanks for your message, it came at a good time. I was feeling very alone and kind of like a horrible human being.