We need some good news.
Black men executed in public. Innocent people bombed in shopping malls. Children subjected to bullying because of their school’s inflexible bathroom policy. The worst humanitarian crisis the world has seen since the Holocaust. A political system so corrupt we are left with two candidates few people trust.
I don’t know how much more we can take. And I’m not even personally suffering.
When I asked my husband what the heck is going on in the world, his response was to take my face in his hands and say, “Jesus is coming soon.” This is, of course, good news, very, very good news. But, in this as in all things, I don’t like having to wait.
So today I have a good story to tell. This is a true story. It is story of a family reunited. It starts sad, as sad as they come. But stay with me till the end because you will love it.
It starts with the bombing of the World Trade Center, and the backlash against Arabs and Muslims in the US. It starts with Masab’s parents getting deported. They had four American children, but Masab, their second son, was born in Kuwait, which does not grant citizenship based on birth. His parents are Palestinian, and Palestine does not grant citizenship based on parentage.
Masab was a citizen of nowhere.
When his parents were deported, he could not go with them. No country would allow him to get off the airplane. The US government knew this and deported his parents anyway.
He was fourteen.
His parents left their older son, all of sixteen years old, behind as well, so that the boys could look out for each other.
When Masab’s father explained this to me, back in 2003, it took awhile for me to understand. “Wait,” I said, appalled. “You mean, the US won’t grant him citizenship, but won’t let him leave, either?” It was the most confusing and heartless illogic ever. “They are forcing you to go but you can’t take your son?”
And so, Masab and Waleed were left, alone in the United States, as their parents and younger (American) siblings were exported to another continent like machinery or dry goods. The other news: his parents, as people who had violated immigration laws in this most unforgiving of times, would never be allowed to return.
I kept careful guard over my daughter in those days, her grubby little hands and clear eyes, and tried to imagine giving her away, leaving her behind, saying goodbye: forever. I watched my high school students and wondered what it would be like to live alone, with no parents to pay the bills or do the shopping or cooking or cheer from the sidelines at even one basketball game.
I could not.
We prayed, and fasted, and prayed some more, that Masab would receive his legal residency. He finally did a full ten years later, at the age of 24, and after a separation that can never be measured by its ten-year duration, finally traveled overseas to visit his family.
Like a moth drawn to flame, I sometimes think about not seeing my daughter, my son, for ten whole years – and it is a lifetime longer than I can bear. After ten years, they would be whole new people, unknown to me, strangers.
Against all odds, this story has a happy ending, a happy ending you and I have been waiting for days or weeks or months or years to hear. The boys took care of each other. They finished high school. They both have college degrees and careers. Masab, through the kind of hard work and relentless responsibility that most White Americans can never fathom, earned his citizenship. When he received it, he immediately applied to sponsor his parents.
It’s been about thirteen years since the whole family has been together. This week, his parents arrived in the US. Legally. For good.
This mother, this father, their five adult children, sitting in a living room together, celebrating the end of Ramadan with each other for the first time in over a decade: this is good news. We love this family; we consider these boys our brothers, nephews, sons. This is what my family and my church and I have been praying for. This is a victory over evil.
Good things are still out there, in this world, waiting to be found, waiting to happen, waiting for someone to make them happen.
Peace be with you.