Every year, the Sun-Tues before Thanksgiving, my family goes to volunteer at a food bank hosted by a local church. We do not attend church, but we began going there 9 years ago as a community service project of our 4-H group. Though we are no longer with this 4-H club, we still go as a family, one day my husband takes the kids (on his only day off), and I take them the other days.

Every year, just like this morning. I drag myself out of bed and consider if “I really have to go…or can I just drop you off?”. I know, it sounds terrible, but it is the truth.

Yet, every year when I am done with this 5 hours shift, my heart is full and I am grateful that I went.  The people who host this food bank are above kind, they treat everyone that comes with such kindness & dignity, I am honored to be part of this.

It is the people that I meet, the people who are so thankful & interesting. The stories I hear touch my heart, and sometimes bring tears to my eyes. I get hugs, and am blessed several times a day.

Today I worked as a personal shopper in the boutique. This is where people can browse for warm coats and clothes. This morning, it actually cooled off and began to rain, so people came looking for warm covers. A few hours in an elderly couple handed me their slip. As I escorted them in and explained our procedure, they were speaking a foreign language, but I could not pinpoint it. When I asked the man, who was very well dressed, he said: “I am from Iraq.”
Me: “How long  have you been here?”
“One year and 3 weeks.”
He looks at me, and says:”We had to flee Iraq. I am a doctor….” and with that he began telling me his family’s story. One day, “they” broke into his house and almost beat his wife (who was standing next to me) to death. A neighbor heard her screams and intervened while they called him to come home. The intruders eventually left. He said they packed their things and left 48 hours later. Forever.
“I had to leave everything. My clinic, my equipment, my EKG machine…just everything. Our house & belongings, car…”

I could see the tears well up in his eyes. Then  he began telling me of his sons. One went to Australia as a refugee, and was studying there. The rest of the family applied for Australia, but was not accepted. He told me how he could not work here in the U.S., since his credentials do not count, and he would have to get his licenses, etc. I could see how all this pained him.

I looked at him and began telling him a bit of my story. My grandparents came to the U.S. as refugees, from an area called Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, a piece of country that has swayed between Poland, Russia, and Germany over its existance.  They too had to leave their possessions, properties, etc, to be seized by the government. But they survived here, and built a very comfortable life in L.A.

Everything I had on credentials and expertise was pretty much useless when I moved here. All those years of schooling, all those diplomas & certificates, were nothing but mere pieces of paper. I started working for $5 something an hour….

There were many more stories today,  but I wanted to share this one. I wanted to put a human behind “those refugees” you are hearing about every day. My family were refugees.

Please do not let the extremists kill the one thing they do not have, and want to attack: Our human kindness & compassion.

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