My wife and I walked to our car last Saturday evening. We had been to dinner with friends and wanted to let our babysitter go home. While we were talking to the valet a slight young man approached us. He was obviously very intoxicated. The man asked for a cigarette. As none of us smoked, we directed him around the corner. He decided to stay and talk. He told me he liked white people and had a problem with crack. He said he was a Muslim but had been drinking.
As he talked he became more passionate. He told of carrying an AK 47 in Somalia when he was only seven years old. He added that he had never killed a man, so far. Despite his advanced stage of inebriation he spoke English well. He clutched me as our car arrived, telling me his name, Jamal. He wanted me to know that he had graduated from college with a degree in engineering.
Everyone who witnessed this discussion, between Jamal and I, was very uncomfortable. Perhaps I should have been also. But, as I stood face to face with this man all I could feel was compassion, not fear.
We have a wealth of talent coming to our shores. These people come with baggage, sure. Jamal probably suffers from traumatic stress disorder. Carrying an AK 47 in childhood does not lead me to believe he had a good one. I could see his frustration at being an engineer and a Muslim, yet being drunk and alone on the street of a big city.
There must be a better way for America to take advantage of the wealth of talent coming here. Would some psychological help have turned Jamal into a productive citizen? How many talented, educated people do we have driving taxies? How many of the best people from other countries are experiencing the worst of ours? Some people see the newest Americans as a threat. I see a missed opportunity. For lack of a little care and institutional compassion, I see a waste of precious humanity that saddens me.