a collection from the people of portland and those supporting from afar.
"people talk about the american dream, if you work hard in this country you can have your dream. i do not know what my dream is yet. i am working one full-time and one part-time job as a dishwasher. my one daughter, still in angola, is set to come to the united states in six months. i would like to save some money so that we can have a good life. she has lighter-colored skin than me, like her mother, who died about seven years ago."
" every single easter was spent at myستو (grammie's) house. we would arrive on good friday and walk in the door, and immediately the smell of mujadara (lebanese lentil dish) would hit our nostrils. when she saw us she would always kiss our cheeks as hard as she could, leaving a perfect red lipstick stain. as the night progressed, lebanese cousins would come in-and-out for visits, and dinner would last so long us kids got tired and played cards at the table. grammie was such an incredible matriarch of our family and taught all of us how to cook lebanese food the right way (using your palm as a measuring spoon and so forth). when easter sunday arrived, we would search for colored eggs around her house, and i remember the treasures from around the world that she had collected over the years from travelling with my جدو (grandpa). of course no eggs were ever hidden in his liquor cabinet, but at weddings today we still drink lots of عرق (lebanese hard liquor) to toast the happy couple. "
"my wife and i bought our teenage daughter an iphone for Christmas this year. it's a surprise. she is such a vibrant and vocal girl, a minister, like her mother. my wife was very sick when we lived in the côte d'ivoire, but was healed and it forever changed her life. now she travels all over africa with the ministry she started, giving people the medical attention they need and showing them the love of God. she's not here to play church. she's not here to play religion. she's here because she hears God's voice and He tells her what to do. and i always tell her when she travels to africa by herself being a minister that i'm praying for her, too."
“my sister got married in the tuscany region of italy. one night during our stay, a couple of us stayed-up late and were looking for a midnight snack. pasta leftovers in hand, i began walking back to our accomodations, a little farmhouse in the hills nearby. all of a sudden, a fox came running after me. i broke into an all-out sprint, out of breath by the time i had arrived back to my room. when i told my sister, she was incredulous, but i know that fox wanted the handmade italian pasta as much as i did.”
"i remember once after a poetry reading a lady came-up to me and asked what life was like growing-up in iraq, and if i had lived in the desert in a tent and rode camels. she was completely serious, and i think my answer surprised her. i explained before the (iran-iraq) war, i had lived in baghdad as a hippie in the 70s. i wore bell-bottoms and had hair down to my shoulders, and my girlfriend at the time was a hippie, too. we loved rock music and alfred hitchcock movies. life changed, of course, and during the war life was incredibly harrowing, as i was held prisoner. eventually, i came to the united states to paint and write poetry and share about my experiences in iraq. to this day, i still listen to aerosmith and remember the hippie days in baghdad."
"at canadian weddings, the tradition was to cut little slices of fruit cake and wrap them individually in foil and tie a doily and ribbon around each slice. the bride and groom would hand-out each slice to guests and thank them for coming. each guest would put the slice under his/her pillow that night and whoever they dreamt of was a soulmate."
"our procession halted in front of a crooked hovel of boards and tin distinguished only by the presence of a door. an ageless woman took my hand in greeting as if i were a lost child. her warmth seeped from the pools that formed her soft brown eyes. we descended steps into a bunker, dimly lit with two bare light bulbs. seated before us, some thirty families of los bordos, honduras gathered to receive ambassadors from a world that had rejected and discarded them. i looked upon stone faces etched with deep lines of despair that denied any chance of hopefulness. then, one by one, men and women stood and welcomed us and so began their stories. as they spoke, the shrouds of poverty fell away and revealed pride and dignity that had been locked away for an eternity. their bodies, bent by the crushing weight of an unyielding world straightened, buoyed by this moment of recognition. they shared their dreams of a future in which their children would not be hungry or sick; a future that included the simple pleasures of home, a bed, laughter and the possibility of a tomorrow that did not begin and end in the pit of hopelessness. my disbelief was numbing; how could anyone survive this onslaught of cruelty?"
"my grandfather came over from ireland to the united states because he was in love with an american girl, whom he eventually married (my grandmother). when he arrived, he had only a few dollars in his pocket. he started-off doing small odd jobs in new york city, but continued to work his way up with his strong work ethic and determination. eventually, he ended-up running a few buildings in new york city and was well-admired. i remember in particular nyc firemen would tell him he had the best-run buildings in the city. he made a great life here in the united states and started-out with nothing. he was always the person in my life i most admired."