Cold Days, Warm Hearts

By The Ali Family

Kind neighbors make a big difference to new families in our communities.

I arrived at the Ali home early in the evening in the middle of January, and like most Minnesotans, we began our conversation by talking about the weather. When a person is born here, s/he learns at an early age all the tricks for dealing with deep snow, ice, and frigid temperatures. But the Ali family is originally from East Africa, so when they arrived, everything about the cold was new to them. Mother Ali shared that one time, the porch leading up to the family’s home had a small patch of ice on it that was causing her and some of her children to slip. She decided that she needed to melt the ice, so she put a large pot of water on the stove, brought it to a boil, and proceeded to pour it on the patch of ice. It initially melted the small patch, but within a few minutes, her entire porch was covered in a thick layer of ice.

Some of the Ali boys then shared about their first day of school in the United States. One of the boys said that he only knew three words: yes, you, and no. One of the other boys said that he only knew the word ‘yes,’ and would use it to respond to everything that was asked of him: “Do you need to go to the bathroom?” Yes. “Time for lunch.” Yes. “Please sit.” Yes. Now, just two years later, both boys are fluent in English and doing very well in school. They say they receive a lot of homework, but enjoy
learning and know all their hard work will pay off.

As we continued to talk, one of the Ali boys also said to me, “The sun is switched.” At first I did not understand what he meant, but he then explained that when the family first arrived and wanted to pray, they could not tell which way was east because the sun seemed to be in a different place in the sky. Thankfully, someone gave the family a compass, by which they were able to resolve this problem.

We continued to talk for a couple of hours about the many adjustments and changes that the Ali family made when they first arrived in the United States. As we talked, the family always interjected that throughout it all, they had neighbors who would help them. For example, one of their neighbors showed them how to shovel the driveway and where to put their trash can for pickup. Another cold winter day, a neighbor invited them into her home when they accidentally got locked out. They have yet another neighbor who shares his fruits and vegetables from his garden.

One thread ran through their entire story: the Ali family is thankful for the freedoms they have in the United States, and for the kindness shown by friends and neighbors as they have settled into their new home.

This story originally appeared in our March 2018 Newsletter.