When I went to Meaza Tekle’s house late Monday morning to take a picture of her for the "My Community, My Country, My World" feature that appears in today’s Daily Globe, I never expected to walk in and be greeted by a table filled with traditional Ethiopian fare.
She hinted about making Injera when I interviewed her last Thursday afternoon before her shift at JBS, but with everything that happened over the weekend, I forgot.
I have met so many nice people from all around the world since starting this open-ended series back in February, and I owe much of it to Jenny Andersen-Martinez, the human resources director at JBS, who struck up a conversation with me one day last December.
Wouldn’t it be nice, she said, if we could tell the stories of the people who have come to Worthington from all around the globe. Wouldn’t it be interesting to find out what brought them here, and why they stayed?
I have been told unbelievable tales from refugees forced to flee their country … of a young man who not only saw his father gunned down in the street, but was shot in the leg and later had to have it amputated … and of a young woman who, in fleeing her homeland with her mom and brother, watched as guerillas kidnapped her brother and eventually killed him.
They came to America with great hope for a better life, for a job, for an education and for a promising future for their family.
Many of them dream to be back in their home country … even though America has so much to offer them, they have left loved ones behind.
It was Jenny’s hope … and my hope … that by sharing the stories of these people, the community of Worthington and the surrounding region would open up their hearts a little bit — maybe be a little more accepting of Worthington’s melting pot of ethnically and culturally diverse people.
Perhaps the person most impacted by these stories has been me.
It isn’t easy to walk up to someone you’ve never met and start a conversation … especially when it’s with someone who doesn’t speak English all that well. These stories have forced me to do just that. And while I sometimes struggle to understand a language, everyone I have met has been patient with me. They’ve answered questions honestly and surprised me with their stories. Some have even shed a tear or two as they recall the terrible life they escaped before finding freedom in the United States.
As I broke bread with Meaza Tekle in her living room Monday morning, sampling Injera and a special "not-so-spicy" chicken she made just for me, I was thankful to live in a country that welcomes all people with open arms … all people who want the same that my German relatives — generations ago — sought out when they came to this land of the free … a fresh start.