Posts Tagged ‘refugees’

A friend used to joke, “I’m like marble. I don’t want to be taken for granite.”

So goofy.

It’s true though. No one wants to be taken for granted.

But most of us do take people and things for granted at times. We just don’t think about it on a daily basis. Until we don’t have them.

Last Spring, my neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur lost internet connection for the entire day. Thank Jesus for the fancy iPhones so everyone could whine about it in group chats.

Wait, don’t folks around the world lose water, electricity and more every single day? If they even ever had access to them at all.

Luckily, I was out running errands. So the internet outage didn’t totally destroy me. And I had my phone ūüôā

One of the errands was dropping off a carload of donations to a housing complex where many refugees live. It made me realize the clothes and household items we can sometimes take for granted.

That afternoon, I went with my then 12th grade daughter to school for her last day as president of a club she started three years ago.

This club allowed refugee students from a nearby volunteer run school to be bussed to her campus so they could play games, use the sports facilities, etc. It made be conscious of how something like a simple school campus can be taken for granted.

I was watching these lovely young girls and boys playing basketball and cheering for each other. Kids from Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan, Palestine, Syria, Iran and Afghanistan.

So many children displaced from so many countries around the world. Due to war and violence. A stark reminder that we can take our security for granted.

As my daughter was saying goodbye to her refugee friends they told her, “We will miss you.”

One young girl told her, “You’re so lucky you can go to college.”

Okay, wow. My daughter never really looked at it like that. It was taken for granted that there would be the opportunity for her to attend college.

Now this is totally human.¬†We don’t tend to think about these things-these absolute gifts-¬†all the time. Or think about the people-these absolute gifts in our lives-¬†all the time.¬†It’s really not sustainable to constantly be in a state of such focus.

But we should take more time to realize who and what we might be taking for granted. We absolutely should take more time to be mindful and appreciative of the gifts, comforts and blessings bestowed upon us. Communicate love and gratefulness.

We do plenty of things without giving them a single thought like…….

Hopping into the hot shower. Snuggling under the warm blanket with spouse, kid or pet. Turning on the tap and expectantly hold a glass under it. Waking up feeling fit and energetic. Flicking on the light. Cracking open the fridge. Pursing our lips for the perfunctory kiss at the front door. Saying the rote “I love you.” Opening the wallet. Closing the car door with the habitual thank you response.

Until we no longer have or we are faced with no longer having…..

Hot water. The warm cover over our bodies. The spouse, kid or pet no longer there. The surety that water will flow into the glass. Good health. The person at the front door. Electricity. The loved one on the other end of the telephone line. Money. The beloved parent in the car dropping you off one more time.

I wish all of you who are celebrating Thanksgiving a wonderful visit with family and friends. Enjoy and appreciate this special day. A perfect time to remember that the gifts, comforts and blessings in our lives should be like marble and not taken for granted.

To those who are not celebrating the holiday I wish you the same. A day of giving thanks.

One last thing. I’m very thankful for you all.

Happy Thanksgiving.













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When I lived in Southern California I had the most wonderful dentist. Loved going each and every time. I wouldn’t be lying if I said it felt like I was visiting family. Everyone always asking about the kids. Even asking about Thumper the dog. The staff had been the same for years. Never any new faces. That’s very telling.

She was actually my neighbor -lived about five doors up from us. But I never saw her in the neighborhood so we caught up during my appointments.

Kind, funny, smart, beautiful on the inside and outside.

And she was a refugee.

When she was just five years old her parents, four siblings and a ton of other family members boarded a boat to escape Vietnam. No idea where they were going but the Dad knew they had to flee.

She told me she could remember being in a sack and thumping her head on the bottom of the boat.

They were rescued at sea, after floating for days amidst bombs, by a ship and soon found refuge in the United States. A Catholic Church in the Midwest sponsored them.

Sadly, her mom died from cancer some time after they arrived in the U.S.

Dad, a physician, ended up doing a fine job raising his children.

My dentist originally was pre-Med but once completed decided on dentistry. Her father had five children. All chose medicine or dentistry. ¬†That’s a bunch of Drs. in just one family.

That is truly a success story. Against many odds.

Being a doctor might not necessarily be everyone’s idea of the pinnacle of success. We all know a profession is not the whole person. Doesn’t make you a better person or a person who is better than anyone else. But it is a wonderful accomplishment, an honorable profession and requires tremendous hard work. For anyone but especially for folks who start off fighting the odds without the usual support systems in place.

During the recent elections I read that a woman said her candidate would win if only the people whose four grandparents were born in the U.S. would vote.

I pondered that one. And I’d say she was probably right on the money.

But what she missed with that statement was that we all should be reminded that America has always been a nation of immigrants and refugees. Always. Even folks whose four grandparents (or great grandparents) were born in the U.S. have immigrant blood coursing through their veins.


My dentist arrived in a boat. Fleeing murder and mayhem. No papers. No nothing.

It was only through the goodness and generosity of the American people and a church community that allowed her family to not just survive the ordeal but to flourish. To serve the greater community. To become respectable, outstanding, tax paying citizens.

This story just reminds me of why I always loved my country. Her essence. The goodness, generosity and community of the people. Candidates and politicians come and go but I have every hope that the essence of America will and should remain the same.










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Many generous people in our community drop off donated items at my home. Don’t even always know who is doing the dropping. Could be clothes, household decor, toys or linens.

They do this because it helps them clear out their homes. And they also want to help others in the process.

My friends and I will send the donations to the refugee center. Or we will sell the items at our frequent garage sales with the proceeds supporting the refugee center and its programs.

It’s not always junk. Just things people no longer need or want.

Sometimes I receive things and I’m not even sure what they are.

There was the time my friend and I put aside a “camera lens” to see if her friend’s son would be interested in buying it. He was a photography buff.

We handled the lens more than once. I said to her, “It just seems so light.”

She agreed.

I think it was my daughter who finally set us straight. It wasn’t a lens but a coffee cup designed to look like a camera lens. LOL. You can google images.

I’ve had a few chuckles sifting through the boxes over the years. Like the time my friend, Lone, sent over some bags. She was donating a beach towel of mine!

My other friend received bags from two different families and found two shirts of her son’s and one of hers.

We’ve gotten valuable gold jewelry donated by mistake.

The sorting of it all can be overwhelming at times but it’s needed. Definitely needed.

One time I found a hand-written note. The donations were from a friend who was helping out a lady clear out her late husband’s belongings. I can’t remember if it was an expression of gratitude or what but I was glad I could return the note.

Or the photograph of my Australian friend and her daughter, who was a toddler at the time, taken when they lived in India.

Yesterday, a friend dropped off a bunch of bags in preparation for her move back to the U.S.

I sent her a text thanking her.

I also had to add, “And thanks for your son’s wallet loaded with Malaysian money as well as U.S. bills!”

You never know what you will discover.

This is where I veer off topic a bit.

I would later find out that while I came across this wallet my daughter had lost hers at school.

Called me from school to let me know. Was upset. The wallet had been our Christmas gift to her. So that bothered her but it was more about the contents. Which included her grandfather’s funeral card, a note from her Dad and photos of her loved ones.

We are pretty sure it’s been located so that’s good news. Waiting for confirmation.

But isn’t it strange that I found a wallet and my daughter lost hers at the very same time?


Back to topic.

If you are donating items don’t forget to¬†check those pockets. The pages. The bags. The everything.

Off topic.

If you do lose something-even if you aren’t Catholic-a prayer to St. Anthony won’t kill you.

When my daughter called to tell me about the wallet I said, “Say the prayer.”

She replied, “I will.”

I asked, “Do you know it? Say it out loud to me now.”

She said, “St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come down. Something has been lost and must be found.”

I then let her off the hook. The telephone that is.

Hope you all find everything you are looking for this week!





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I remember seeing a photo that was an entry in the KL Photo Awards.

It was striking.

It showed a little black girl licking a huge, horrible looking knife. Looked like it was taken in Africa.

One could think, based on this one image, “Oh my, how savage! Is she one of those rebel child soldiers just in from a kill?”

A picture is worth a thousand words, right?


What the photo did not show was her friend’s birthday cake that had just been cut. Kid was licking the frosting off the knife.

I saw a video today that’s being shared. Shows refugees in Europe refusing food and water from the Red Cross.

Immediately, folks want to believe that it is because there was a “cross” on the package. And that they refused the food because they were Muslim. Some say it’s because the food is non halal.

An ungrateful lot.

Can you imagine what will happen to Europe if they let these Muslims in and take over their countries?

Back story is something like this. These guys were waiting for hours and hours in the pouring rain waiting to cross the border. Guards were only letting in so many every few hours. There was frustration and one yelled, “We don’t want food! We want to cross the border!”

Geez, I get a little impatient and frustrated when the cashier at our local grocery store, Jusco, takes way too long to bag my items. Granted I’m not throwing things. Thank God my testosterone is in check!

Maybe they were an ungrateful bunch. I doubt it but could be proved wrong. But that’s not most of the refugee population.

My point is that one photo or one video taken out of context might not tell the entire story.

It’s important to remember that when sharing items that could promote hate. Or even dislike.

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I keep seeing posts and articles stating, “Steve Jobs-son of a Syrian migrant.”

One couldn’t be blamed if, after reading that one statement or headline, they conjured up images of Steve’s beloved father fleeing the political strife of his home country. Fear and angst apparent on his grimy streaked face during the difficult passage to America on a rubber dinghy in shark infested waters.

We could think,”We had no idea! OMGosh! We’d never have this MacBook Air or that phone if it wasn’t for our country taking in a migrant. Like all of these people we see on television risking life and limb to escape Syria at this very moment! Isn’t that what they are calling them at the moment? Migrants? Now, we can totally relate to the human misery of the Syrians flooding Europe and other countries. How do we encourage our government to do more? Loosen up immigration policy? We might be missing out on a future genius!”

Or a future president? Barack Obama’s father was also a “migrant” who studied in the U.S., married an American and had one son who would become the first Black president. Good or bad- like it or not-he’s the head of a superpower nation which effects the world.

I’m feeling pretty darn good -right about now- since I also produced a couple of kids with a “migrant.” Yup, a Syrian one.

But seriously. Is this a good way to poke and prod at our humanity? Get us to really open up our eyes to one of the world’s worst disasters? Because I’m typing on a MacBook?

Yes, it’s true that Steve Jobs would not have been born if it weren’t for a union between a Syrian man and an American woman. In the United States.

But this wasn’t even the man who raised him. I am not sure Mr. Jobs would be especially happy to have the world exploiting his name or his background. He did not care to have a relationship with his Syrian biological father and never did. Not saying he wouldn’t be concerned about a humanitarian crisis of this magnitude. I simply have no idea.

Steve’s biological father was born in Syria and the son of a multi-millionaire. He had choices. Had a university education in Lebanon. In his own words, “Where he spent the best years of his life.” Like many young people he was involved in protests there and was even thrown into prison for a few days. It happens.

He had the choice to be able to return to his home country of Syria after university but it was decided it would be better for him to study abroad. And yes, he was welcome to enter the United States as a student. So, he lived in New York with a relative who was an ambassador. Then attended Columbia University-another nice choice- and continued his studies in Wisconsin. Met a woman and she got pregnant. Baby born and adopted by a family.

I’m not bashing the old man. Absolutely not. That was his life. And it sounds like a pretty good one compared to the current refugees. Because he had choices that these poor people do not have.

Not even saying that one shouldn’t use their celebrity for a good cause. I’m saying the media shouldn’t use someone’s celebrity posthumously. It all gets twisted.

And here is one of my points.

We should allow people into the country because it is the right thing to do. That’s what we have always done. We should continue this. And we need to do a better job of it. To study. To work. Where all people might have an opportunity to realize their potential. Genius or not. Allowing people into the country based on sperm donation for potential future geniuses really isn’t a criteria. Let’s face it. That’s a total crap shoot.

And is it fair to subtly hint, by using the word migrant, that there is any comparison between this man and the millions of starving, displaced people?

Each person has a different immigration story. America is an immigrant nation. That’s a fact.

Do we care about the current plight of the refugees-most of whom have had no choice-because of the man that Steve Jobs never met? Or is it because of a sweet little baby washed up on shore? Or maybe the seventy people who suffocated in the back of a truck in Austria? Or the people suffering in camps who yearn to go back home if only it were safe?

We see many images. Many articles. Most exploitive. But I think it’s really important to know which ones truly represent the suffering of the Syrian refugees. I mean, migrants.

I suppose I should just be glad that people are finally taking notice. No matter how or what means. If it helps the poor people of this world who have no place to call home then so be it.

Okay, I’ll suck it up for the greater good.

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Some weeks ago, my daughter and I, visited a local restaurant that we enjoy. It is run by a Palestinian refugee family that I know.

They are super sweet. Always big, welcoming smiles. The young fellow, M., working the shawarma stand won’t even take a tip from me.

I ask about his family. There are a bunch of them from one big family that sought refuge in Malaysia a few years ago.

They are Palestinians who lived in the Yarmouk Camp in Damascus, Syria. Yarmouk was established in 1957 for Palestinians who fled the Arab-Israeli War. It is now more like a neighborhood and it doesn’t have tents but apartments. The last few years it has turned into a hell hole due to the Syrian conflict. Many, many people left Yarmouk to escape hunger, disease, wicked fighting and death. It’s brutal.

So, some of these family members were displaced twice in their lifetime. Can you imagine?

And they keep plugging along, working away and trying to make it.

He asked if I knew that R.’s father died a month ago. R. is his eighteen year old first cousin.

I didn’t know. My eyes filled up. I felt terrible for them. The Dad’s heart gave out at 47 years of age. I asked how his aunt was doing. He said she is in her mourning period. But doing ok.

Gosh, to be refugees (for a second time) in a strange country. And then this. To lose one of the anchors of the family.

The next evening, I was downtown with my family and who do we run into on the street? R. After not seeing him for months.

He’s working in an Arabic restaurant. We extended our condolences and we chatted for a bit.

Last Sunday, my daughter and I took him out for a drive and then dinner. It was his first day off in fifteen days.

He is a pleasant young man. Would like to return to school but that won’t happen at the moment. He would like to leave Malaysia but that won’t happen at the moment.

I asked him about his boss. Especially since he is working so many days in a row.

Was he good to him? Refugees/illegals are always being exploited.

He told me that the owner of the restaurant was a Moroccan man who was very nice to him. R.’s father had also worked for him. Apparently the boss loved R.’s Dad. His father was a hard worker and would go back and forth between the two restaurants to help out during the busy times.

R. said that he gets his weekly pay but the owner is also still giving him his father’s wages.

Ok, my eyes were filling up again.

I just thought it was one of the kindest things I had heard in awhile.

Have a great weekend. And I hope a kindness, not a hurt, will make your eyes fill up.

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I remember having a conversation (yeah, I know, crazy since I can hardly recall breakfast) with a fellow here in Kuala Lumpur. He is a wonderful, giving young man and had been doing a lot of work for and with the Rohingya refugees.

His fiancee, a lovely woman, was working on raising funds for a Rohingya refugee baby. The child had Down’s and a hole in her heart. The mother was single, homeless and had two other little ones. She could not afford the needed surgery.

So we were discussing this issue over some good eats and wine. He didn’t feel good about broaching the subject but his thoughts were that the money that was needed for this child’s surgery could help countless other refugees. To eat. To be educated.

We went back and forth respectfully. And I actually considered his thought process. Believe it or not, even if I don’t agree with someone, I do consider their side. Maybe not at the moment but I certainly do take the time to reflect. Because I am a Libra.

I was reading an article today about a little boy in Ireland who is in Boston with his parents. He needs a lung transplant. He had a deadly bone marrow disease that effects one in a million.

Be very careful about wishing to be one in a million. Ever!

He lost his sight. But a marrow transplant two years ago helped his disease. Until the disease effected his lungs.The medical professionals in Ireland/England do not want to perform the surgery-afraid of the outcome and his quality of life.

Boston is probably his last stop. Doctors have given this little four year old until Christmas.

There is a fund raising campaign since the family’s insurance will not cover an overseas operation.

Maybe I am just emotional today but my eyes kept tearing up. Not because he was from Ireland where my Dad was raised. Not because he is in Boston. Less than an hour from where I was raised.

But because I am a mother.

And I would do anything if it were my child. Selling my body might be a bit beyond the pale at my age. But I could have working parts (although would have to be heavily discounted) still available. My soul is totally up for grabs.

Because if we do say, “Well, she has Down’s Syndrome. Or he is blind. Or she probably won’t live long anyway. Or he/she will never be a productive member of society” then we are on a very slippery slope. That means that there will be a lot of line crossing and judgement calls.

I carefully considered both trains of thought. And this is what I concluded. Just my thoughts.

If we do not accept or help those that are less than “perfect” then I think we lose a little bit or maybe a whole lot of our humanity.

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There was a young Syrian refugee woman living here in Malaysia. She and her husband were living with his brother and sister-in-law and their two kids. They decided to leave the country for a better life. Because they soon discovered that Malaysia was not going to be the land of opportunity for them. And they were expecting a baby. Had plans to eventually get to Germany via Georgia.

I was happy for them. Although a bit skeptical since they were doing this on their own. But waiting for a relocation through the UNHCR would take years and they did not want to wait. And I don’t blame them one bit.

I wished them well. Then immediately thought that the furniture we (group of volunteers) had found for them a few months prior could go to another refugee family in the area. A beautiful changing table, crib, etc. There is always a new baby being born to the many refugee families here. And I knew that if they were fleeing the country they would not be taking any furniture with them.

I told her sister-in-law that we would gladly take what was left behind and give to another expectant mother in the refugee community. I am all about the reuse, recycle and renew!

She told me that there wasn’t much left in the house. They had sold everything to raise money for their tickets.

At first, I was like, “Wow.” And to be quite honest I felt a little disappointed.

I told my husband.

He said, “Mary, when you give you give. With no strings attached and no expectations.”

I thought that I already was that person. But for some reason I thought this situation was different. Wouldn’t everyone want to pass along the things they couldn’t use to someone else in need?

I thought like this because I was thinking about my next step. And not theirs. Or thinking about their new needs.

They needed the money to survive their next journey to a better place for the family. Because that’s what survivors do.

My husband is absolutely right. No matter what the gift, if it is truly a gift, there should be no expectations.

I’m almost fifty years old and I am still learning and growing. Every day.


Note: The family is still in the country of Georgia. They had a beautiful and healthy baby girl. Unfortunately, it has been many months and they have not reached their intended destination. They do not like the country and I am not sure if they will make a go of it there. But they are surviving.









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Today is the start of a festive time for Muslims around the world. After a month of reflection.

And I know there are so many folks who won’t be able to celebrate with their loved ones in their own country. It’s sad. Even my own mother-in-law currently residing with us due to the conflict in Syria. Yes, she is with us. Safe and sound. But it’s not the same. She is sad that her children are scattered around the globe. Dubai, Canada, Syria and Malaysia. And not able to celebrate together. One year ago she was in Syria. With three of her children living nearby.

On the other hand, she is a very fortunate person to have her son who is providing her with a comfortable environment. And that is certainly something to reflect upon today.

Because there are loads of folks living in camps, on the streets and in that place called fear. Schooling is disrupted. Families torn apart. Death. Loss of shelter.

Here in Malaysia, there are many Syrian families living as refugees. Who don’t even have refugee status at this time. It can take a few years to obtain that. And then it means nothing. Except that maybe you won’t be forced out of the country. But as far as housing you are on your own. No legal employment. No assistance. No local schooling for your children. Can you imagine that? That your child cannot attend school. That you don’t know what the next meal or job will be.

It rots.

Thank God for charitable organizations.

My friends and I have “adopted” a Syrian family through one of these organizations. We provide basic pantry items on a monthly basis. The family consists of a couple with two small children. And a brother-in-law and sister-in-law (who is pregnant). The men hold doctorate degrees. But they are baking (under the table) for an income. The women are babysitting to earn money. You do what you have to do.

And they are better off than others.

I guess there is always someone “worse off” as they say.

So, I hope to take my mother-in-law to visit with them today. She has not met them before and I am hoping that any sadness she may feel will be alleviated by sharing and being with others.

I find that when I am feeling blue the best thing in the entire world for me is to do something for others. It makes me stop thinking about myself. At least, temporarily.

Happy Eid to all who celebrate. Especially those displaced. I sincerely hope that one day you will be able to celebrate with your loved ones. In the place you call home.

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