Majeed is an immigrant. He speaks five languages, and is illiterate in four of them. He learned Afghani at home, and the other three languages in refugee camps throughout Europe.
He never attended school, not one, until, at fourteen or fifteen, he enrolled in this high school. He spoke no English. I know he flunked one grade here, maybe two. He was “socially promoted” through the rest. Somehow, he got into my senior English class. He was twenty years old. We teachers refer to such students as “senior citizens.”
Majeed is a tall, gangly, gentle fellow with a ready smile. When he was in my class, he slept much of the time. He was depressed. He was traumatized by war.
He read haltingly. His spoken English, while heavily accented, was clear. His writing was just this side of illiterate. He tried to complete some of my assignments, but he was easily frustrated.
He worked most of the night in his dad’s shop selling, as near as I could tell, just about everything. When he spoke of the shop, I imagined a kind of bazaar. Majeed worked every night to support a family that numbered in the double-digits, with more on the way both by birth and by boat. He is a devout Muslim.
To flunk or not to flunk, that was my question. I could have flunked him for his absences alone. But I just didn’t have the heart for it, not in the last semester of his senior year. I gave him a D-. And spent days praying that I had done the right thing.
Yesterday, Majeed came by for a visit. I hadn’t seen him in two years. He gave me a photo of his new shop, his very own, in a fashionable part of town. He’s taken after dad, and sells everything. The bazaar has come to the mall.
I hugged Majeed. Why? Because this is why I became an inner city teacher. To help an immigrant get a chance at that white picket fence in the ‘burbs.
I bought a little frame for that photograph. The real pay-off, and I have Majeed’s word, is that I get a deep discount on my next monkey pod bowl, or my next flashlight, sprinkler, a skillet. I could get some bling. I need a wallet. Yea, that’s what I need, an alligator skin wallet with my initials in silver.