: Critt Jarvis (no apparent relation) sends on an amazing post by Philip Jarvis, a master gunner serving in Iraq.
He tells of working with Iraqis who are paid $5 a day to fill sandbags. Most are teenagers.
There was one kid, Rami, who wore old sandals. One of his toenails was broken with a blood blister formed under it. He had several cuts on his feet from the jagged rocks. He asked for shoes. One of the soldiers who I assigned to supervise the Iraqis had recently purchased new running shoes. He gave his old ones, which were serviceable, to Rami. The kid told me he would come back the next day to work for us again.
The next day’s batch of workers arrived in a large group. I began to search the ground, looking for the shoes from the day before. Rami was standing there, proud of his shoes, smiling when he saw me looking for them. I gave him thumbs up and pointed him into my work group….
Another Iraqi, Hassam-Sali, asked for shoes a few days ago. We only had one pair of shoes the other day; Rami’s feet were in worse condition. I
called Monika, my wife, and explained the situation. Most of the Iraqis wear dilapidated sandals that afford little protection for their feet. The shoes that Americans give out are appreciated, and worn on a daily basis. Several workers show up wearing old desert boots or black Army boots. I have some old shoes in the basement that she mailed out. She also called her workplace, School Age Services, in Schweinfurt and started a shoe collection program.
I showed Hassam-Sami a picture of Monika and explained that it would be a few weeks before the shoes arrive. He smiled and vowed to work hard every day. He told me that I am his friend and made the symbol with his fingers. I just want him to fill sandbags and go home.
I wish that were the end of the story. But it’s not:
My heart sank as I looked at the group of young Iraqis. Their eyes did not show emotion. I expected to see fear, hate, rage, or loss in their expression. They have been through so much in their lives; they just stood still waiting to see what we were going to do with them. I was told that one of the Iraqis lost a brother in the attack. They were supposed to feel safe with us overwatching them. It was such an ugly moment; unable to change the course that evil took.
None of the workers showed up at the gate today. How am I supposed to give Hassam-Sali his shoes?
In one breath, this makes the good work of Spirit of America seem at least frustrating: A few Americans want to help a few Iraqis but the Iraqis are still bombing each other.
But in the next breath, it makes the work of Spirit of America all the more vital. While Iraqis and other Middle Easterners are blowing Iraqis up, we need to show that we are here to help in any way we can, even small ways, person to person, American to Iraqi, with a pair of shoes or school materials or tools or business loans or sewing machines or, yes, even weblogs.