Ali, a 12 year old Iraqi boy, was the remaining member of his family and had no friends to love or anyone to care for him. On July 4, 2007, he finally made it to Baghdad after a nine day trek.
Walking through a bombed out neighborhood, he entered a building in hopes of finding food when he came upon a uniformed man. Cautiously, he came closer to the man. The boy carefully knelt down to determine whether he was dead or alive.
On the right of the man was a small pool of blood. “I guess he’s dead,” thought Ali. This assessment changed when his head his moved ever so slightly along with a low cough then a heavy one followed by groaning.
“Water, water,” the man responded.
“What did he want?” thought Ali who never encountered such a strange language. What he did know is that this man was hurt. But what could he do? Where did he come from? Why was he here?”
Ali began to search him finding his canteen as well as his food bags. The man groaned once again asking for water. This time he opens his eyes to see Ali but could do nothing. “Please, water,” then pointed at his canteen that by now Ali had recognized held water.
Ali thought for a moment then advanced towards the man who grabbed the canteen and began to drink heavily as he maintained control. Compassion seemed to overtake Ali once he caught sight of his bloody arm. Without directions, he was able to stop the bleeding with a make shift bandage.
As hunger overtook Ali, he opened a bag to find things that appeared to be food. Removing the wrappers, he ate the strange items. It tasted strange but he ate it anyway. When he had his fill, he went over to the strange man who had not moved much. Ali lifted his head then put the strange food to his lips whereby he began to chew.
After a day and half, the water gone with little food remained. The barefoot boy decided to look around the building for water and food. Finding neither, he left to search the other uninhabited buildings. He found some food but no water. Within a half an hour, he returned to the injured man only to find others wearing the same clothing as the injured man.
Frighten Ali tried to leave but was prevented from being to escape. “No, no!” he said in Arabic.
“Wait,” the injured uniformed man responded. “He helped me until you were able to find me.”
“What is your name young man?” another uniformed man said in Arabic.
Surprised he responded: “Ali Naifeh. I found that man here. I took his water and food. I stopped his blood from flowing out.”
“Thank you for what you did for him. Ali, where is your family?
“My family is all dead. I have no one.”
“Would you like to come with us? We have food, water and clothing if you want them. We won’t hurt you.”
The man speaking Arabic shook his hand.
At first Ali did not want to go but the promise of food and water sound very good to him. While on their way to their camp, the injured soldier his leadership how Ali saved his life.
Upon their arrival, Ali observed more food and water than he had ever seen in his life. Eating his fill, the strange uniformed men and women shook his hands and greeted him with smiles.
Before Ali had met these strange uniformed men and women, he had no family or friends. Now he learned he had many friends who thanked him for his compassion. “Who are these people?” he asked an Arabic speaker.
“We’re from America.”
“America. Where is America?”
“It’s far away.”
“I’d like to visit that place but I have no money to go there.”
“Maybe we can arrange for you to go to America.”
“Who are you, sir? How can you arrange anything?”
“I am a Chaplain. That is, I help people come closer to God. Allah, in your case. I also help people who need help. It looks like you have that need. I have friends in my country, I believe, who would be willing to take care of you until you are able to take care of yourself.”
Eventually, through his United States Army friends, Ali’s wish for friends and love came to him. He learned how compassion and personal generosity can go farther than the person you give to. By sacrifice, one teachers the gift of giving without conditions.