Most of you know about our good friend, Abraham, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan (again, please google "lost boys of sudan" if you don't know what that means), and his wife, Adhieu. In fact, several of you made donations when Adhieu first arrived in America 7 months ago, helping them get established as a couple with essential things like sheets and bedding, silverware, and plates.
Adheiu (pronounced A DOO, like saying "goodbye" in French) has desperately wanted a job. She has never been paid for her labor in her life. She tells me that women in her country are not allowed to work. Her mother is a widow (she lost her husband and all 4 of her sons in their country's civil war) living in Kenya to avoid the continued violence in Sudan, and is able to provide very little for her youngest daughter, Adheiu's 12 year old sister. She rents a mud hut from a man. Two weeks ago when she told me her sister was unable to attend school because her mom didn't have the money to pay the school fees, I drove immediately to Wal-Mart to wire some money to Africa. These are things many of us cannot even fathom.
Adheiu is bright and positive and beautiful. And she is a hard worker. But no one wants to hire her because she has no high school diploma, no resume, no work background, and speaks broken Enlgish. (Though, somehow, she and I communicate absolutely fine. Everyone at her current job--which I'll get to in a minute--thinks I am her translator).
Luckily, I was told about the amazing program at the LDS Humanitarian Center that trains immigrants and PAYS them while they are gaining job skills, learning English, and learning to drive. It is an incredible program. I had never been the Humanitarian Center before and cried like a baby when the sister missionaries took us on a tour of the facility and explained what services they offer other countries. Water, clothing, newborn resuscitation training, shoes, blankets, first aid...Absolutely amazing. One of my very favorite things about the Mormon Church.
We finally got her enrolled and set up in the program, (which was quite the process...) but our final hurdle has been figuring out how to get her there via public transportation. After two weeks of driving her to and from work, we decided we'd give Salt Lake City's Public Transportation system a shot. We had the bus route all mapped out and ready to go. I drove to her apartment then slowly followed her in my car as she walked to the first bus stop. She lives in a low-income area and I hate to say it, but there were a lot of shady and interesting characters waiting for the bus and just passing through the neighborhood. There was a man smoking a cigarette right next to us, with earphones in, and he gave us a nod. "I have no idea what he is thinking but avoiding eye contact with him is probably a good idea", I thought.
When the bus arrived, I handed the driver a 20 dollar bill (after he helped an overweight, paralyzed woman in a wheelchair and her daughter on) and he just laughed at me. "Exact change is required." I tried to explain to him that Adheiu would be getting a discounted bus pass later that day through her job and that I was helping her figure out the system and would be following behind the bus in my van. I thought the driver would be more helpful, but he just kept giving me this smile that said, "You idiot".
Just then, the smoker headphone guy reaches his arm around us and hands the driver 3 dollars. I heard him say something about me having a 20 and I thought he was paying for Adheiu's bus fare in exchange for my 20 dollar bill. I offered it to him but he waved me off. "Don't worry about." He smiled and got on the bus after Adheiu.
Well...my. That was awfully kind.
Long story short, her connecting bus at the Midvale Center Station never came. It just didn't show up. I ended up driving her to work...again, but grabbed a few Trax maps and figured out a better way to get her there.
So this morning, we tried for a second time. And we had success! I followed along from stop to stop, asking a young guy from Congo if we were on the green line, and asking the Hispanic kid at the Center Pointe station if the train we were catching was heading West or East. Even the old toothless meth man was anxious to inform us exactly where Adheiu's train was heading.
At each stop, as I unbuckled Zoë and walked to the platform to meet Adheiu, I looked around at all the different people and wondered about their stories. I had several thoughts.
First--it is not easy for the poor to get out of their situations. If I were not Adheiu's mentor, I have no idea how she would be getting to work. I don't think she would be working. You can get a job, but how do you get there?
I thought of how I misjudged Mr. Smoker Headphones (not that I'd necessarily be best friends with the guy) and how helpful everyone had been over the past few days as we tried to figure things out.
Second--as I watched some of the very obvious drug junkies, I wondered about their lives. What kind of abuse and neglect have they experienced? Where did they start in life? What kind of support system and examples do they have to lean on? Have they ever been shown another way to live?
Third--I thought how absolutely caught up I become in my Instagram bubble where I truly believe that every stay at home mom is a super model with her own booming business and lives a life out of a magazine. For every one of those moms, I could see 65 people trekking their way to a minimum wage job to feed their families. For every uber rich family I know (and love) in Park City--whose life begins to seem "the norm" when it is all I am surrounded by, there are thousands of individuals scraping by but who have the necessities of life.
So in summary--I guess I'm saying that through this wonderful friendship with people from entirely different backgrounds than mine, I am remembering what it felt like to be a missionary in Illinois, entering people's homes who had little to nothing. Remembering my days in New York City where I would go tracting with the sisters in the projects, and see the sad lives and cycle of poverty. I'm learning so much about Sudan, Kenya, and Africa in general, and even making new friends whom I'm meeting through Abraham and Adheiu. I'm sacrificing my time and money to help someone really build their life. And I cherish it. I love what it is teaching my children as well.
Things I have/can do that Adheiu would absolutely love to have/be able to do:
-Read, Write, and Speak English
-Drive a car
-I have both of my parents and all my siblings
-Beautiful children to raise
-A safe place to live
-Peace of mind that my parents have enough food to eat and are safe from violence
These are things I don't even THINK about day to day. But I do now. And I will try again and again to burst my Instagram, Facebook bubble and taste more of the real world.
*I hope this didn't sound too horn tooting or manifesto-y