GAYS MILLS - The ad hoc village group finally got together for a formal meeting. They had been “meeting” informally for some time, as people do, savoring the community feeling of gathering at the local café for coffee most mornings. A common scene across America, and probably the world: “regulars” sharing gossip, news and ideas over a beverage of some kind. Ten people decided to gather in a church basement and have a serious talk about an idea that had gelled among them over the winter.
The idea was this: can this town team up to sponsor, as immigrants, a foreign refugee family? The news for months, years really, had been full of coverage of desperate refugees throughout the world. Wars, economic strife, famine, natural disasters, there were all kinds of reasons why innocent people became refugees. It was painful to watch the scenes of the dire straits displaced people were faced with and to wonder where in the world they would end up. Maybe this group and this town could do something to help in a small and meaningful way in the face of such need.
So they talked about how to go about seeing if sponsoring a family of immigrants was possible. Had such a thing ever been done before? The banker knew the state representative and he agreed to contact him about the idea. The pastor would see about housing for a prospective family. A farmer and a local contractor would look into job possibilities for the newcomers. Two women friends would look into what countries might be open to such a refugee sponsorship.
The village was fortunate in a unique way: it owned a small farm on the edge of town. The property had been left to the village by a grateful native son, an elderly lifelong resident. The will explained that the property was be used by the village as a park or “however they see fit.” The farm had a decent house, currently being rented, and a modest set of farm buildings. Maybe an immigrant family could live at the farm.
Five years later…
The Zafrani family thought they had died and gone to heaven. Against all odds, they had somehow been selected to relocate to far off America and be adopted and welcomed to a new life in a new town, a new country, a new continent. They weren’t sure how it all came to pass, but they had left behind a life of constant turmoil and trouble in the Middle East and moved to a life of peace and promise.
The family lived on the village farm. They raised a huge garden and sold produce from a roadside stand, a stand, which the townspeople strongly supported. Abdul, the father, was quite handy with anything mechanical and he was a busy man. He worked at the local garage and for several farmers on their machinery repairs. Alia, the mother, was a tremendous cook and began working at the local café, the very café where the group of citizens had hatched the idea of sponsoring her family. The menu at the café changed as time went on and the owners encouraged Alia to cook some of the dishes she knew from “back home.” People came from miles away to sample the fusion dishes she created, blending American and Middle Eastern recipes.
And the Zafrani kids! The three teenagers were thriving in the local school. They were hungry for education—schooling had been a low priority in their war-torn country. They learned English very quickly and were accepted readily by their classmates. The two boys Mansur (now Mannie) and Samir (Sammy) were both solid students and active in team sports. Sada (Sadie), a brilliant student, also played sports and loved to sing in the school chorus and play in the band.
The idea, hatched over morning coffee, to foster a family, had worked out well.
* I made up this story but I wonder if something like it could happen. I hope so.