I met my neighbor, Bronson, when I first moved into my condo two years ago. He’s a nice young man, usually found working on his or a neighbor’s car. I kind of think of him as our building’s friendly but protective watchdog. Whenever there’s a suspicious noise outside at night (car prowling is an issue in Seattle), Bronson is quick to pull out the pellet gun and let nefarious characters know he’s got their number. Getting to know him better over these past couple of years, I can appreciate his protective nature and how it probably influenced his views on refugees from the Middle East. Metaphorically speaking, he’d most likely say he would have been ready to whip out the pellet gun on the entire region, out of a desire to protect us from something he didn’t really understand. Then he met Taha and everything changed.
By mid December, we’d had a few parking lot conversations and I was able to share some stories of the Syrian families I was friends with. How they took their families and fled the same terrorism we feared. He heard their names, maybe saw my love for them and became a bit more curious. It was around that time when I learned that my friend, Taha, was looking for a more stable job than the part-time screen-printing one he had. Even with DSHS assistance, it just wasn’t enough to provide for his family of six.
I also found out that Taha was a mechanic. Surely he’d find some work! I returned home that evening and ran into Bronson who was, as usual, working on his car. “Hey, Bronson, if you hear of any mechanic jobs available, please let me know. One of my Syrian friends, a hard worker, is a mechanic and needs a job”, I said. Well, it just so happened that his shop was thinking of hiring another full-time mechanic! Over the next week or so Yazan, a friendly Jordanian guy, happily agreed to help Taha do a crash course in the English words for all the major car parts. He also accompanied Taha to his interview with the owner, Nate. They gave him a chance!!
Now, a year and a half later, these unlikely friends in an unlikely place are more like family. I remember when Bronson stopped by to give me a couple of freshly printed business cards with Taha’s name on them, a surprise for their friend and new staff mechanic. I still have them on my desk and smile whenever I look at them. And Nate, the owner of Marqueen Garage, has even taken up the metaphorical pellet gun against a customer who felt emboldened to verbally accost their now dear friend, telling his customer he didn’t need his business anymore. They respect Taha for his work ethic and seeing him do his prayers there is just a normal part of the work day now. Where there may have been fear before, there is now a human being – a deeply spiritual man of good character, a father, husband and friend named Taha, whose smile and kindness breaks through any wall.
I think of these guys and am reminded of what a big quilt of humanity we all are; each one of us a vibrant square, varying in texture and color. It’s a much more beautiful picture when we are all side by side and take a moment to step back and enjoy how our differences make for a masterpiece.
Such a joy to know these guys and to have seen the journey of their friendship. We hope this for others as well.
– Written by Cari Conklin
Have you or a friend been transformed by friendships with newcomers to the U.S.? If so, please share them. In these perilous times for refugees and the resettlement program, this is one way you can advocate for both so our country can continue its legacy of compassion and enrichment.
If you want us to help you do that, we would love to do so. Just reach out to us on our Contact Us page.
“Let’s Rebuild Community Through Friendship!”