“Hey! It’s Ali! He’s here! Hey everybody, Ali’s home!”
The boy pedalled hard on his bike to keep pace with our car once he spotted his friend Ali riding inside. He recognized Ali despite the fact that he was wedged into the back seat—a surgical mask covering most of his face. As we neared the corner the boy on the bike broke away, racing across the uneven dirt road, then uneven ground and scrubby grass, to beat us home.
Do you want to know what pure joy looks like? It looks like Ali’s mother bursting through her gate dressed in bright clothes for the first time since we’ve known her. It looks like candies thrown at our car in celebration, in the style of a midtown parade.
Pure joy looks like relatives and neighbours running across streets and across fields to greet their boy who was so close to death—who went into “enemy territory” and returned home safe and mended.
Pure joy looks like a family and community transformed; a decade’s worth of gnawing fear gone—shadows under eyes, shaking hands, and sadness chased away.
Pure joy looks like the face of a boy without dark circles under his eyes, without the need to rest after a short walk, without the burden of his parents’ fear heavy on his young shoulders.
Pure joy is kisses like rain, falling on both cheeks—an outpouring of gratitude from parents and aunties and neighbours.
Pure joy sounds like a mother’s celebration trill, it feels like a hundred embraces, it smells like hastily unwrapped cherry candies.
No matter what happens now, this community knows the love of The Other. They know love that shows up and walks with them through what’s hardest. They know love that re-introduces them to the “enemy” they thought they knew, and now know the loving care of that same “enemy”. Every time Ali and his family see his bare chest and tell-tale scar, they will be reminded of that love.
This celebration after our 1000th surgery in Iraq?
This celebration after providing over 60,000 hours of medical training for local doctors and nurses?
Oh, it’s just the beginning!
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You’ve proven you aren’t afraid of pushing back the darkness here in Iraq—are you ready to do the same in other parts of the world?