January 2nd

“Mordochka, time to get up, up, up!”
“May I ask why?” 
“Why?! Because there’s never been a day like today and there will never be one like it again. Did you know that something you do today could last a life time.
“An endless walk?!”
“Even better: a gift without an end.” 

THIS is a story from Afghanistan, Mordochka. It’s about a high school girl who was given the opportunity to study in America. She was extremely happy because it was a dream come true, but it was also the most difficult decision she’d ever made. Afghan families are very, very close. She would be far from home. She had never been outside her country before. Can you imagine, Mordochka, how scary that would be for a young girl? She had never been on an airplane, or slept without her sisters all around her. She had to learn to speak English, eat new foods, understand all new customs, and even learn how to use a knife and fork.  

    It wasn’t easy, Mordochka. Sometimes she felt very lonely, although everyone was kind to her. Still, sometimes she cried. Sometimes she really wanted to go home but, even more, she wanted to succeed for her family’s sake.  So she didn’t quit. Four long years she worked hard, kept trying, and then . . . graduated with honors

     But this story, Mordochka, is about something that happened her first year in America, during Christmas.  She stayed with a host family who did Christmas projects with her to help her feel a part of the community. One of the projects was making little hearts from dollar bills. The family made lots of them. When people came to visit, Farida would give them a heart as they left and wish them a happy Christmas.

     One day an older neighbor, who everyone called Uncle Irving, came by because he wanted to meet the brave, young girl from Afghanistan. Farida gave him a dollar when it was time for him to leave. But Uncle Irving sat down again and said, “I would like to give you a heart, too. But I don’t know how to make one. If I give you a dollar, will you make a heart from me and keep it for yourself?”  

    Farida smiled and said, “Yes.”

     Uncle Irving took a long, long time looking in his wallet. At last he pulled out a $100 bill and gave it to her. Everyone cried out, “No, no! That’s too much! You can’t . . .”  But he held up his big, weathered hand and said, “This is my heart, not yours.”  

     Then he turned to Farida and said, “You can spend the money however you want; I only ask you to think very carefully before you spend it.”

     Farida kept the heart four years and then returned home. When she arrived home, she learned that her father had lost his job. When she gave the heart to her parents, no one in the family knew what to say. They had never dreamed such a thing like that could happen. It was a miracle, they said, from a man they didn’t even know and couldn’t thank. The family was able to use the money to buy food until their father found work again. 

     This next part is really special, Mordochka. It’s the whole reason I wanted you to get up and hear this story. The money Uncle Irving gave Farida is gone, but the real heart is not. It will last forever. Doesn’t that make you wonder about how special a day really is?! 

     What, Mordochka? You want to know about Uncle Irving? Oh, he kept the heart from Farida in his wallet his whole life.

Told to us by Farida

 ©InterestEng. July 2013 - July 2021 §  The stories in the magazine portion of the site are written by English language learners. Stories are corrected by a native English speaker.  § Photos are staff photos or used with permission.  §  To contact us:  go.gently.on@gmail.com