Growth In Real Time—How You’ve Changed Everything For This Family

I came home to my three-year-old squatting on our porch, scowling at a plant.

She was obviously frustrated, her face all scrunched up.

“Hi daddy,” she said without looking away. I asked what she was doing.

“I’m waiting for this plant to grow.”

I smiled and clunked my briefcase down to stare at it with her. I asked, “Can you see it growing?” She held out her hands and shrugged, and I explained that growth takes time. You need to step away to appreciate it. We agreed to come back after a week of watering the plant to stare at it again.

Life lessons from a three-year-old.

How often have I scowled, scrunched, stared at things, willing them to grow and only walked away frustrated when they wouldn’t.

Growth takes time. In fact, the best things in the world take a long, long time, and it’s only when we step away, give it some space, and come back that we actually see growth. I was reminded of this on my last visit to Faris’s home.

You probably know Faris. Many of you met him in the early days back when we first did. You may remember when he first started learning to make soap, tip-toeing across a living room floor, every inch of it covered with drying bars.

You may remember when he began trying out new scents, when he dove into making soap with hand-fired charcoal, soot under his fingernails as he poured those first batches.

Faris’s mother playing with her grandbaby. Photo by Matthew Willingham/Preemptive Love Coalition.

You may remember the death of his mother, what a source of kindness and strength she was to so many, how we mourned with the family as they grieved her death so far from the home she loved.

You may remember the moment he bought a pickup truck and laughed at how his hard work had paid off, declaring, “Sometimes I forget I’m a refugee!”

Faris leaning against the truck he’d just purchased—hard work paid off! Photo by Matthew Willingham/Preemptive Love Coalition.

And now, after sitting on his living room floor, sipping his wife’s famous cinnamon tea, snacking and wrestling with his kids, telling the hardest, most beautiful stories, we take note of this moment:

Faris has grown. His family has grown. We’ve all grown.

Thinking back on Faris just after the genocide by ISIS, after they arrived and lived in that abandoned building and had lost so much… and now? They have a home, a car, their children are back in school, they’ve had new babies, they’ve lamented the death of loved ones, been able to afford feasts and pilgrimages, given away food and money to neighbors and friends in need, and so much more—their life is turned upside down!

Why?

Most organizations would say, “It was us.” We, the Preemptive Love Coalition, did this for Faris. I guess that’s one way of looking at it.

Other organizations would say this was you, our beloved community of donors, customers, friends, and supporters—you did this when you cheered Faris on, bought his soap, helped empower him to become a successful businessman. That’s another way of looking at it.

But while those other two perspectives are technically true, the most important, most dignifying, most exciting take on Faris and his family’s growth is that it was they who did it.

They worked extremely hard. They are not powerless. They are not voiceless. They are not helpless. Faris has worked very, very hard. Just the other evening, on the floor of his living room, he mentioned in passing “I just finished making several thousand bars today.”

Faris’s kids with other children from the neighborhood making silly faces for the camera. Photo by Matthew Willingham/Preemptive Love Coalition.

Every time we visit, it seems like he’s dreaming up something new, trying new scents or just grinding away in his shop to fulfill more orders.

This kind of growth, it just doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t scrunch up your face and stare at it or will it to happen. It all takes time, investment, and involvement from us—we have to be willing to go the distance with people like Faris as they choose to bet on themselves and their own future.

So thank you, to all of you who’ve followed Faris on this journey. He is hopeful; he barely considers himself a refugee anymore, and the difference between Faris a few years ago and Faris today is absolutely incredible, a plant that was withered up now radiant, in full bloom.

Faris is proof that you can help bring transformation in Iraq and Syria. Faris’s story isn’t done—he and other makers like him are hoping you’ll buy their handmade goods for your loved ones this Christmas—but if you could lounge on Faris’s living room floor and ask him “Does my money make a difference?” I can guarantee you he would look you in the eye and say, “yes.”

You are turning lives upside down in the best of ways, and we’re only getting started. Thank you.

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