In these uncertain and dark times, I think we need a story of joy and hope. Interestingly, it has resonance with the story of the Christmas season. I tell this story with deep gratitude. It is shared without names, photos or precise locations for privacy and safety reasons.
An Afghan family has educated all of its children, including 7 girls, and 5 of the children, now adults, are in the Western world. Their oldest son is a lawyer and supports his parents, his wife and children. The Taliban offensive targets their regional city, killing a lawyer. They threaten his friend, the oldest son of this family, and his family, with death.
The lawyer flees the regional city for Kabul, leaving his pregnant wife and 2 small children with her family in a nearby village, and his elderly parents in the house he built for them.
The Taliban try to burn down the house of the parents, who hide for several days, fearing they will come back. Finally they gather their daughter-in-law and the children, and decide to brave the dangerous road to Kabul to join their son rather than wait for certain death in their city.
They escape Kabul just after the airport bombing at the end of August on a flight chartered by a non-profit group, with only their backpacks of documents and a few clothes.
For the next 4 months they are shuttled from refugee camp to refugee camp, from Doha, to Frankfurt, to Pennsylvania, to New Mexico, to Michigan, homeless but relatively safe.
On the last day of November, the whole family are admitted to Canada as refugee claimants. An immigration official stages their papers compassionately so that each becomes an anchor person for the next, allowing them all to enter immediately.
They reunite with their youngest son, who is already in Canada, but have to stay in a motel for 3 weeks because there is no available place to rent. The cost is astronomical for a family of 6 with no income.
Friends (including a young real estate agent) and the family work frantically to find rental housing for a family of 4 adults and 2 children. Several landlords refuse to rent to a family with only inadequate government support. One landlord has a vacant house for rent, but then decides that he is not going to rent. He plans to sell the house in January.
A family friend who has tutored one of the daughters and has known the family for more than 10 years appeals for donations for household goods, clothes, and children’s toys, and many generous people, neighbours, family, and friends of friends respond. One family shares the request with their young children, who go through their toys and clothes and donate several boxes, while a pregnant woman donates baby things that she has herself been given.
Finally a wise man, a friend of the family friend, decides to break the logjam. He works with the real estate agent, and within 36 hours, he has signed an agreement with the landlord/seller to buy the vacant house with the condition of immediate occupancy. The next day the family gets the key and moves in. The collected household goods, clothing, and children’s books and toys are delivered by the family friend, and 2 days later the rental agreement is signed.
The baby, due in a few weeks, will not have to be born in a stable, or in a refugee camp. The family does not have to fear bombs or Taliban, and is safe and secure in Canada. They can go on to establish themselves here, with continued support for the first year.
The family is overcome with gratitude.
Everyone who contributed as well as the family itself is feeling the joy of the season. Prayers of gratitude have been offered up in several religious traditions.