Cold Feet

July 13th, 2019

Prayer of the Refugee

from Rise Against

“Warm yourself by the fire, son
And the morning will come soon
I’ll tell you stories of a better time
In a place that we once knew

Before we packed our bags
And left all this behind us in the dust
We had a place that we could call home
And a life no one could touch

Don’t hold me up now
I can stand my own ground
I don’t need your help now
You will let me down, down, down!
Don’t hold me up now
I can stand my own ground
I don’t need your help now
You will let me down, down, down!

We are the angry and the desperate
The hungry, and the cold
We’re the ones who kept quiet
And always did what we were told

But we’ve been sweating while you slept so calm
In the safety of your home
We’ve been pulling out the nails that hold up
Everything you’ve known

Don’t hold me up now
I can stand my own ground
I don’t need your help now
You will let me down, down, down!
Don’t hold me up now
I can stand my own ground
I don’t need your help now
You will let me down, down, down!

So open your eyes, child
Let’s be on our way
Broken windows and ashes
Are guiding the way

Keep quiet no longer
We’ll sing through the day
Of the lives that we’ve lost
And the lives we’ve reclaimed

Don’t hold me up now
I can stand my own ground
I don’t need your help now
You will let me down, down, down!
Don’t hold me up now
I can stand my own ground
I don’t need your help now
You will let me down, down, down!

Don’t hold me up
(I don’t need your help, I’ll stand my ground)
Don’t hold me up
(I don’t need your help)
No! No! No!
Don’t hold me up!
(I don’t need your help, I’ll stand my ground)
Don’t hold me up!
(I don’t need your help, I’ll stand my ground)
Don’t let me down, down, down, down, down!”

Turki is a good man. I need to say that up front. He is the father of eleven children, and he does his very best to care for them. He’s done a good job so far, better than I could ever do. He took his entire family out of war torn Syria, and he managed to get them into the United States, after a short stay in Turkey. Turki and his wife, A’isha, are a team. They are solid. Turki is in many ways a model refugee in this country: he’s smart, hardworking, and honorable.

However…

Turki is stuck. It’s not his fault. It just is. When he came to this piece of America, he got a job at a Muslim school doing janitorial work. He found himself working inside of an Arabic cocoon. At the school everyone speaks Arabic, so he has learned very little English in the last two years. Since he started working at the school, Turki has not received a raise. This is a problem. He needs more money.

A couple weeks ago, Turki asked me to help him to find a better job. I have tried to help him to find other work. It has not gone well. Turki is reluctant to put himself out there. I understand how he feels. I know how it is to live in a foreign land. I know how scary it is.

On the other hand, there is no other way to get a job in America. A person has to be vulnerable and frightened over and over again to find work. That’s how we do it here. Turki doesn’t know how to find work in this country. He can’t fill out a job application. He can’t write up a resume. He can’t talk himself through an interview.

On Monday, I texted both Turki and his wife. I had it set up for Turki to take an entrance exam for the Laborers Union in Milwaukee. I was willing to take him there early on Tuesday morning. I got a text back from A’isha that it was all good. She said that I should come to get Turki on Tuesday morning. I was actually a bit surprised that Turki was going to follow through with this.

He didn’t.

I got a text late on Monday evening saying that Turki couldn’t make it to the test.

Yeah, whatever.

I was pissed off. I had made arrangements to get Turki to a test that could easily have gotten his foot in the door for a construction job. At the last minute, he got cold feet. He had decided, for whatever reason, to stay within his comfort zone. That’s okay. He can do that. But he has to do it without me.

I have spent the week angry about all this. Does it affect me personally? No, I could easily write off this family immediately. I don’t owe them anything.

My contact at Workforce Development told me that Turki and his family could possibly qualify for state money as refugees. I went to their house this afternoon to tell them about it. I was ready to be a hard ass about it, and tell them to get their act together.

Turki was there, but not A’isha. I tried to explain to him through his son, Ibrahim, how it worked. Turki could get money from Wisconsin, but he had to apply for it in person. He didn’t like that. He couldn’t understand.

Ibrahim told me, “He wants somebody to come with him.”

I replied sadly, “I can’t do that now. My wife and I are going to Texas for our son’s wedding. I can go with your father in August, if he wants that.”

Ibrahim nodded, “Yes, he wants you to come with him.”

Then Turki said to me, “Sit down. Stay for a while.”

I didn’t want to do that. I was frustrated. I made to leave.

Turki followed me out the door.

He said to me, “You go to Texas. I say to you, ‘Ma a’salama’. ” (That is: “peace be with you”.)

I turned abruptly, and asked Turki, “Do you still want a better job?”

He told me, “Yes, yes, I need a job with more money.”

I looked hard at Turki and said, “You need to take an English class. You can’t get a good job without English.”

He nodded, “Yes, I know. Maybe, maybe, you help me learn more English?”

I sighed, “Yes, I do that.”

Turki smiled at me. “Thank you, Frank.”

I felt like crying.

I suddenly realized that I can’t cut these people loose. I am going to help them (somehow) no matter what else happens. I can’t turn my back on them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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