From Mount Sinjar to the Great Smokies

I started volunteering at a refugee resettlement agency in town a few weeks ago. The stories are bouncing around in my brain, and I’d like to share them with you. Mostly, I never really know what I think until I write it down. 

Last week, I helped two Iraqi men get their social security cards. They came from Baghdad about a week earlier. One spoke English, the other didn’t. One was OK. The other wasn’t. 

Conversation was sparse. I wondered vaguely if they questioned the wisdom of me, a woman, driving them around town. My husband said that he didn’t think women were allowed to drive in Iraq, and I said, no, that’s Saudi Arabia, but if they did believe women shouldn’t drive, I probably didn’t convince them otherwise. I’m not the best driver. I try, I really do, but unfortunately I fit that stereotype of women being bad drivers. So does my mom. I come by it honestly. (She’s worse.) 

Then again, maybe that’s not too terrible because when I accidentally ran a very small red light, that definitely broke the ice. (Ugh. I was so embarrassed, but they thought it was hilarious. Non-English speaker cracked up. First time I saw him smile. Possibly because I used a ton of church-lady euphemisms like “Oh golly” and “Geez”.)

I was nervous, if that’s an excuse. I hate driving people places, and my radio was broken, so it was so quiet and not a little awkward, but I wanted to help. 

Anyway. I got them hooked up with their social security cards, and when we were done, we walked to the front doors only to find that it was pouring buckets and buckets. Just, so much rain. Sheets. I wondered what this place must seem like, with sheets of rain and towering trees, when they had spent their entire lives in the dust. I asked the English speaker once we shook the rain off and were back on the road. How do you like it here? I asked. 

He nodded before answering. “It’s safe. No bombs.”

It’s safe. No bombs. Yeah, that’s Tennessee. I suddenly was swamped with shame at my hissy fit that took place in my head last week over not being able to get a new outfit for a big swanky thing. My frustration over a crooked floor and the peeling paint on my door frames. 

He’s Kurdish. We talked a little about what it was like to be Kurdish in Baghdad, and he brushed it off, asking, “Have you heard what they’re doing to the Christians?”

I nodded. 

“Somebody needs to do something,” he said, eyes wide. “It’s terrible. They’re trapped on a mountain.”

I nodded, concentrating as the rain picked back up. Yes, they are. And their children are being slaughtered in the most brutal ways. Inhuman ways. Somebody needs to do something. They need a hero. 

I don’t have a solution. All I can do is what I can do, and that’s write, and help the ones who need it when they get here. I take it back, I do have one solution: I think the U.S. should airlift all of them trapped on the mountain to safety. Now. Today. At 2:16 p.m. Right now, before more die of starvation, and  more children are beheaded. We should have done it when ISIS gave the Christians and Yazidis the deadline to convert or die. 

I don’t have an end paragraph to wrap this up nicely. This isn’t nice. This is the worst thing I have ever known to happen in my lifetime. If you know of a way I can help, let me know. 


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