Tough times – a story of courage

tough times
From left to right: Moses, Jim, Beverly, Asalli, Daniel.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota – an honorary grandmother celebrates a special young man and a brave family who gave her courage in tough times.

This story is for Moses Idris, but I will start with a little bit about myself. I am the granddaughter of German-Russian Jewish immigrants. My grandparents and their parents went through tough times, but they were fortunate enough to emigrate before the Holocaust. Bringing little to nothing with them, they set sail for the United States and a better life, entering through Ellis Island in New York.

tough times

About four years ago, I was introduced to Moses when my husband Jim was training him for a job at Target. Jim had the patience and tolerance to take the time to understand Moses, with his thick accent and broken English.

Training Moses turned out to be my husband’s best accomplishment, for he flourished. To work at Target, you must know what to do and what is expected of you. It did not take long for Moses to catch on – in about three months, he became the Employee of the Month. Jim and Moses became good friends.

At the time, I was undergoing some tough times with my health. I was in great pain emotionally and physically and began to search for answers in the medical world. Help was very limited in the city I live, and I made the tough decision to go to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. This is where people with uncommon or rare medical problems go to find answers. It was overwhelming, but I had no choice. Shortly before my trip, I met this wonderful young man as he accepted an invitation to come to our house for a dinner. I told my husband then that I thought Moses had a secret.

Indeed he did. He had a story to tell – a difficult story but an uplifting and motivational one. He told me how he and his family fled their country of Eritrea on foot with nothing more than they could carry themselves or on their donkey. I believe Moses was five or six years old. They traveled for months through desert and forests and under unimaginable conditions. They finally arrived in Ethiopia, where they remained in a refugee camp for ten years – ten long years with little food and water. They were happy to get what they did, and glad to be alive, because their village had been burned to the ground and so many had perished.

Moses and his family eventually got their boarding papers after years of going through medical exams and completing the papers required to be accepted by the United States as refugees. Sponsored by Lutheran Social Services, the family settled here in Sioux Falls. Six family members in small three-bedroom apartment, but for them, it was like a castle. Their plight and courage in tough times were my inspiration to fight for my health and endure hours and days of painful testings at Mayo. All the while, Moses called to check in, and eventually I received some help and relief.

To this day, Moses remains a true and loyal friend. Un giorno, he brought over his seven-year-old brother Daniel for a Hanukkah celebration. It was grandmotherly love at first sight, and grandfatherly love as well. At some point, they brought their cousin Asalli, whom we love just as much. They are in every way like our “grandchildren” – usually a joy but sometimes just little boys that do not always listen!

Moses is the most motivated, kind, compassionate young man we have ever known. He and his family have come to America for a hand up, not a handout, and generally do not ask much of anyone.

Moses possesses a strength throughout his soul that other young men need to emulate. I wish I could put him in a Xerox machine and make a billion copies. I have no doubt he will succeed in all of his endeavors. He sets the bar high for other refugees in tough times and even higher for those lucky enough to be born here.

We share our lives, our journeys together. This is not a one-way street. Moses has gone out of his way to take me to medical appointments when my husband cannot, and he always makes phone calls to check in on us. We have been to his home numerous times and feel entirely welcomed. We have shared so many family meals – native foods from his country of origin that were great.

Moses in my mind is not just a refugee, but a real American with all the spirit that goes with that. May he continue to prosper and continue to be highly motivated to reach his goals. God bless him.

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Circa Beverly Christenson
Beverly Christenson and her husband Jim live in Sioux Falls, Dakota del sud.