Three or four months ago, I drove around with my friend Mohammad again. But this time we weren’t going to Philadelphia for one of his dentist appointments or dropping off a job application or going to a coffee shop to hang out or looking for a house out in the country. We were looking for a place where he could rent a moving truck. He was moving to Dearborn, Michigan.
He moved to the Detroit area, and seeing him off felt, I imagine, much like it will feel when I send one of my own children off to college or a new life on their own. Hope and excitement for him was all tangled up with sadness. I didn’t want him to go. I wanted him to be happy.
We talk on the phone once or sometimes twice a week now, and I get the update on how the kids are doing, how Maradi’s adjusting to her new job, how Mohammad is finding his way.
“How are you, my friend?” I ask him.
“Good, good,” he always says, and I think about the fighting in Syria that has moved south. I read the news differently now, always looking for mentions of his hometown.
“How are things in Dearborn?”
“Oh, things are okay,” he says, and I can tell things are not going as well as he had hoped. “We miss Lancaster!” he says, and he laughs, clearly surprised.
“Lancaster misses you,” I say, smiling.
I think of my friend Mohammad, a kind middle-aged man with four boys and a gentle wife. I wish I could introduce him to all of my friends who are afraid of Muslims, afraid of Middle Eastern people, afraid of the Koran, afraid of the call to prayer. This is your Muslim extremist, I would tell them. See? This is your terrorist.
He is, of course, anything but. He loves his family, enough to have made a harrowing journey with them when he could have tried to wait out the war. He wants a good job, something where he can make a living. He wants a good education for his children, hope for his boys.
In other words, he is us, the great history of us. He is American.
“Will you move back?” I ask him, trying to calculate how much that would cost him in rental truck fees and another security deposit on a home and all of the things that keep people in one place.
“We will see,” he says. “We will see.”
Mohammad and I have written a book together about his journey here and the growth of our friendship, and it releases on October 16th. Find out more about the book HERE. If you would like to be part of the book launch team, including involvement in a Facebook group, please let me know. All members will receive an advanced copy of the book in exchange for supporting the launch and reviewing the book online.