He was coated in a fine layer of flour. It clung to his clothes, to every tiny hair on his face, and to each eyelash. Ahmed was one of the hardest workers at the aid delivery in Mosul. Back and forth between the loaded transport truck and an empty classroom, Ahmed hauled 55-pound bags of flour—nearly three-quarters of his body weight.

Ahmed would mix it up every few trips with an equally heavy parcel of rice, beans, and other groceries. Back and forth. Back and forth.

At 12 years old, and despite being short for his age, Ahmed did the same work as the grown men from the Mosul neighborhood who worked steadily to unload the relief aid you sent, anxious to get their share.

Ahmed hustled hard.

And his family’s name wasn’t even on the list to receive aid.

Ahmed left home that morning to work, dressed in a bright red coat to ward off the cold. Anxious to provide some desperately needed cash for his family, he picked up huge, clear plastic bags full of bread rolls to sell. No one in Ahmed’s neighborhood has any money, so he traveled to a “better neighborhood,” hoping to improve his odds of making some sales. Ahmed had to leave school at grade 5 because of ISIS, but he’s a smart, savvy kid!

Ahmed is no stranger to hard work. Bread rolls are a staple food for Iraqis, but they’re cheap—retailing for about 12 cents each. And they’re only fresh for a day. You have to sell a lot of rolls fast to make any money at all.

When Ahmed arrived in the “better neighborhood”, a newly liberated section of town immediately east of the front line, where the air still vibrated with the sound of mortar shells and bullets, he discovered that no one there had any money either. But he pressed on, optimistic and unafraid of the long day ahead.

That’s when Ahmed saw our trucks pull into the neighborhood and park at an empty school at the end of the street. He saw a long line of men (and a few women) from the neighborhood form, then surround the local official who was managing the distribution of food. While neighbors jockeyed for their turn to confirm their name was on the distribution list, Ahmed did something extraordinary—he stashed his inventory of bread rolls and went to work helping to unload the trucks.

Ahmed worked hard, until the last bags of food were lifted from the trucks. Then he started helping younger boys carry their family’s aid parcels out of the school.

There was nothing in it for him. He didn’t negotiate a deal beforehand. He didn’t help just enough to be noticed. He didn’t even mention that he wasn’t from the neighborhood—we only learned it when we asked.

Ahmed simply put his head down and worked, because there was work to be done.

Most of the people you show up for are simply trying their best to make it in terrible situations. They are generous with what they have at their disposal, even if they are like Ahmed, and the only thing they have to give is time and energy. But when you show up, in the form of flour, rice, beans, and hope—they are so grateful!


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