BRIGHT SPOT – This is an unusually long read, but I recommend you allow yourself the time.
I had the pleasure of talking to a man last evening who had much to share. Hani was born in Jerusalem. His family dwelling had no electricity and no water. At the age of four, his parents moved to Kuwait but Hani stayed behind with his grandparents at his request. Over the three years he lived there…
1) he broke his arm and a man who took care of everyone’s animals (he had no formal education) set it with a piece of old wood and rags. It actually healed.
2) he fell and cut open the top of his head. There was so much bleeding that his grandmother thought for sure he would bleed to death. There were no doctors, no stitches, etc. She applied fresh coffee grounds as a salve, wrapped his head with fabric, propped him up and prayed for 2 weeks. It healed but left an interestingly shaped scar.
3) at age 7 he and his friends ‘stole’ figs and olives and I think tomatoes from his grandfather’s garden and sold them to people. The ‘police’ caught them and that was the last straw for his grandparents.
They shipped him off to Kuwait to be with his parents.
When he arrived, everything around him was foreign…he kind of freaked out. He sat and stared at the lights. He put his sandals in the fridge thinking it was a closet. He kept wanting to feel the running water. He tried to get inside the back of the television to be with the tiny people there! Of course, at some point, his parents explained about it all.
After high school, he wanted desperately to go to America. His mother forbid it because she knew that if he did, he would never come home. They did agree for him to go to England to school. That only lasted 6 months because the gloomy climate caused depression for him. Hani secretly applied for a VISA and twice was turned down. Finally on his third attempt it was granted and he came to America without his parents’ blessings. That was 40 years ago. He went to college and obtained a couple degrees, made quite a bit of money and lost it all when his cousin and business partner embezzled from their company. He built his life and business back up and then the big crash destroyed him. Finally, a third effort has held and he is doing well and his financially secure.
***An interesting story…perhaps even fascinating. Well, the next section of our conversation went in an entirely different direction. It is this piece where I saw a grown man cry like a baby in the company of a perfect stranger while connecting to the pain and struggle that he endured for a 7 year period. It was during this conversation that I made a connection as well…I connected on a deeper level to the human race and its myriad of complexities and diversities while feeling the oneness that we so often forget about. It was difficult to keep my composure while experiencing such compassion for a fellow human being as my heart was aching for him. I will be leaving out most of the horrific details, but there is enough for you get the gist of it.
At age 33, Hani got a woman pregnant. He being Muslim and she a Catholic, there was no solution except to wed. He promised her that he would take care of everything. Throughout the pregnancy everything was wonderful. He bought them a house and they were looking forward to what seemed like a situation that just might work out after all. She delivered their daughter via C-section and three days later, she ‘snapped.’ Her behavior and moods were extremely labile. She even became violent toward Hani. Both of her sisters were doctors and they told him to be patient with her as some women go through a rough emotional period after giving birth. They also recommended psychiatric counseling. So, Hani did the best he could and also paid for the best doctors for his wife.
As difficult as the next several years were, they remained married because he had promised his wife her green card. She was from Mexico. It took 4 years! Once she had what she needed, the marriage dissolved. He never remarried. He spent the following 7 grueling years in and out of courtrooms trying to get shared custody of his daughter. This all happened shortly after 911. Being a Muslim made the entire process rather complicated since the mother of his child, who also did the books at his company, began making horrendous false accusations of which included tax evasion and child abuse. He was devastated. This man was investigated thoroughly by Homeland Security, Child Protective Services as well as several other agencies…for 7 YEARS! He almost went to jail had it not been for a large community of citizens that testified on his behalf in one particular case.
When he spoke of how he nearly lost the only truly blessed thing in his life and what he went through to even be able to see her, he wept. Now, 26 years after her birth, Nadia and her dad are extremely close. He considers himself the luckiest man in the world. When his daughter graduated from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, he paid for her to go to Jerusalem to spend time with her paternal grandmother who is 82. Nadia was recently married and cherishes her new husband AND her amazing Dad!
This is not my typical Bright Spot story. However, I strongly believe that any account of what the human spirit can and does endure for the sake of love, integrity and gratitude is often nothing short of miraculous…the brightest spot of all! Hani’s story touched me deeply and I will forever be grateful to him for the effect he had on my heart.
BTW, yesterday was Hani’s 59th birthday! Happy birthday you dear man! May you have many more filled with the love and joy you so rightly deserve.