Because it needs to be said.
Today, a friend of mine asked us to tell her two good things that happened to us this week. She needed to hear good news to keep herself going.
I shared far more than that and could have kept going. When the world is falling apart, it’s easy to forget this is a beautiful life.
Thank you, friends, for helping me remember as you cope too.
We matter. We can support one another. We can get through this together.
A few minutes ago, I realized I’ve been witness to, and accidentally part of, two police standoffs in the last three years. Also three big apartment fires. These things happened around me in an instant, with no real warning, for no real reason except luck and chance.
It’s so easy to forget how quickly your life can change. It’s so easy to take your safety and your happiness for granted. To forget we all have expiration dates.
Each time I’ve ever been in urgent, scary situations, the helpers in our community kept me safe and helped me heal. Whether it was law enforcement, counselors, servants of faith, or medical professionals–or even just an average man trying to make his way home. Our country has so many problems–and none of the systems we have are perfect. There are lots of things to work on, for sure.
But i am forever grateful for those who run towards the hurt and suffering during times of fear and urgency. We need you more than ever.
And because of what happened today–on this of all days–I want to say thank you to immigrants I’ve known in my life–and people who have supported these populations.
To my friends in the MNM program who fight tirelessly to change the world, every single day–who did so before there was a Trump in office–thank you for being constant inspirations to me–for challenging me and helping me fine-tune my vision for being an activist and advocate.
To my teachers in the program–thank you for showing me anything is possible. Thank you for living lives of service and helping create a generation of doers.
Thank you to my Papa–who helped me value hard work and humility. Who valued accountability and overcame alcoholism. Who bought a house after losing a farm–through rough daily physical labor that would have broken a man twice his size.
Thank you to the men and women who were my neighbors in Westwood growing up. Who filled the air with spices and music. Who gave me ways to escape. Who opened up the world to me as a magical place and helped me transcend a childhood of poverty and addiction.
Thank you to Ali and Abraham who owned the small corner store near my home off and on throughout my childhood–who helped my family eat when we were starving. For their extreme kindness and how they asked me how my mother was when she was dying.
Thank you to Sue who bought the store off and on when Ali and Abraham fell on hard times–and did the same.
Thank you to Fatima & Sam, my next door neighbors who escaped persecution in Lebanon and took care of me when my mother couldn’t. To Fatima who made me the most amazing food, and Sam who took nails out of my feet when I ran barefoot at night.
To Moussa, Tareg, and Iman–my beautiful little brothers for the four years we shared West Ohio Avenue.
To Moussa, who went to jail for being a terrorist–I understand and will always love you. You were always so angry and smart. To Tareg who grew up to be the best Daddy–who was always so sensitive–thank you for being a vulnerable man with such a big heart. To Iman–the baby and the little boy I doted on like my own–thank you for our adventures and for letting me show you what it was like to fly.
To Zeyneb–who taught me the meaning of quiet strength, courage, and dignity. I will never forget how hard you tried.
To Dr. Mahapatro who was always covered in chalk, hair askew, and so excited to share your passion for organic chemistry–which was scary as Hell and completely intimidating to me. When your colleague made me feel like I wasn’t good enough–like I was stupid–you showed me compassion and helped me keep going. You made organic chemistry comprehensible to this girl who essentially spoke a different language–even though you struggled to communicate.
To Yuko who was brave enough to come to me in the writing center every single week for three years to become a better writer. You taught me so much about grace and persistence–and about what a privilege it is to be a teacher.
To the lost boy who worked in the cafe at my work, who taught me how to make my favorite soup–who showed up each day with a smile on his face and so much love–thank you for talking to me during such dark days for our country–when people were mean to you because you were different and the world was now such a dark place. Thank you for your love and your humanity–for showing me what resilience actually means.
To the friend who helped me pay my rent once when I lost my job with no warning–no questions asked–simply because you knew what it was like and someone had helped your father once–thank you for your generous soul. I try to pay it forward every day.
To the beautiful children I taught briefly in Houston, who shared their candies and their limes and opened up to me like I was family–thank you for helping me be true to myself and for giving me reasons to transform.
To the doctors who saved my life when i was too stubborn to seek care and made sure my surgery was expertly executed and that I was comfortable–you will never know how grateful I am.
To the countless student doctors and assistants and other medical personnel who assisted my mother’s surgeon when she had open heart surgery? I will forever love you and am incredibly grateful that you were there for her.
To the man who brought me my pizza last night–hot, perfect, and with such care–at almost midnight–thank you for your smile and pride in bringing me my dinner. You warmed my heart on a really tough day.
To the gardeners and cleaning crews who keep my apartment complex clean and beautiful, even when people are mean and gross–thank you for your thoughtful attention and consistently honest hard work.
To the countless others who i see, and so many more who I probably never know help me–all those people in this world responsible for the things I rely on to live and be comforted–for countless things I may never even realize–thank you, and I’m sorry.
I honestly could go on and on and on.
I may not know your names. I may not see your faces every day. But I know the world is better for you.
I care about you. I see that you are more than some religion or nationality or gender or race or dollar sign. I see your joy. I see your humanity. I see your pride and your hard work. I see how hard this world is, and I see you navigate it with grace. I see your love for your families and your diligence in seeking good lives. I wish nothing except the best for you, and I will fight for you.
You are not alone.
Thank you all for helping me have this good life.