Every Tuesday night we hang out. Me, Sajida and Khalida. Just the three of us, but sometimes there are one of six kids roaming in and out of the room, sharpening their pencils, or giggling at my feet. The ladies are always ready for me. I am usually late. I squeeze them into a busy day as another appointment on my calendar. They wait for me with not much else to do. I am their day. Always prepared, always smiling- I want so much to be their friend. But we cannot yet communicate well enough to exchange anything more than the basics.
They have been here 13 years. In that time they have not participated in parent/teacher conferences, or gone grocery shopping by themselves, or driven a car, or gone to the State Capitol, or roamed the mall. They are not sad about their circumstances. I don’t think they know any different. But, maybe, somewhere inside they yearn for more than a life in the house, making food, sewing clothes, and feeding the baby.
Sajida has come a long way. At her request, I’ve been preparing her for the Citizenship test. She is not ready. The test is in three weeks. She is nervous, but I tell her not to be. I am nervous too. We practice the 100 questions. Raquoya, her niece, is 12. She knows all the answers. Even I don’t know all the answers. But she has quizzed her aunt many times.
If Sajida passes, she will be sent back to Pakistan to be married. Perhaps she will be more valuable as a U.S. Citizen. I did not know this was her reason for citizenship until long after we began working together. I thought I was helping her obtain a life here with more freedoms, more rights. Sometimes, I am very discouraged.
Other days though, when I watch her write sentences or leave me a phone message, I realize what six short months can do. I see the small sacrifices of my time have made a big difference in the life of someone else. I see her desire to be a citizen of our country, a free country, and I want more than anything for her to pass that test with flying colors. I want for her to someday come back, with her husband, and have a voice. A vote.
But she is not yet ready. She might need a miracle. Will you pray?
November 20th…10:30am. And, um, start praying NOW. This is going to need it…