By John Moses.
“The list is an absolute good. The list is life.” – Itzhak Stern
On August 15th, 2021, the evacuation of 76,000 Afghans of all status to the United States began. The relocation efforts have continued now for over 12 months unabated, led by compassionate and fearless people of all backgrounds across a vast human and digital network. These patient heroes have helped an additional 9,000 Afghans to their promised opportunity of making America home since the last evacuation flight left Kabul. Each of these numbers is a human being, a part of a family group, and the hope of future generations. Consider the weight of a single life. Now, consider the impact all those lives will have on those families and the fabric of our own lives in America.
We’ve heard much about the difficult conditions of Afghanistan, the long journeys of her people, and the sacrifice of so many others to help our Afghan families seek a lasting peace. For case managers like me and all of those that have worked so hard for our friends there was always the matter of sacrifice and cost. How much were we all willing to sacrifice to help our friends? What was the cost of our compassion? When we made our lists, built our manifests, did we recognize the scope of what each of those names meant?
There is a world now that has grown out of the chaos for all those people that we worked so hard for:
A boy attending his first kindergarten class, smiling with his first school outfit, here in America. His father, an interpreter, was helped to evacuate Afghanistan by people whom he never met, but now who certainly love him and his family like their own. A connection made over thousands of miles and between a few phones will last forever.
The fiancé of a peer in our evacuation community saved by another member, an act of love and empathy, to help make the world right for her friend. For the rest of their lives the intersection for them both crosses through a center point, together. Bound forever by shared experience and joy.
A woman refugee who was so afraid of being married to a stranger in Afghanistan is now marrying the man she loves in California. She will be surrounded by family, friends, and a world of potential that was created by the will of a team that overflowed with compassion to help this young woman change the trajectory of her life.
Our community is fortunate to witness these changes in the world in real time. Second by second the world moves forward but the slow growth belies the scales of difference we all made in the world. Every single Afghan person that we helped has become a butterfly changing the space around them, a wake flowing outward from the point of connection between the lives of their families and our community. We will see our friends bring their grace, benevolence, humility, and generosity to the lives of every American but also into the homes and hearts of all of us, the volunteers.
We’ve also seen the growth of a stubborn, resilient community of advocates that came together for the love of Afghanistan, her people, and her culture. Those relationships were the spark of change that the Afghan people bring with them everywhere they go. We’ve made new friends, and partners, and have done hard work to benefit others together. We’ve bled together and cried together – joy and despair – and have all learned to love in new, hard ways. Our Afghan friends were the nexus of our connections, as we are to theirs, and we will forever be grateful for the love they have brought into our lives.
In the end it’s time that the volunteers from every part of this story, every single paragraph, recognize that the work and lives we grasped so hard onto mattered. It mattered every single day from the first flight, and beyond the last flight. As the days pass and the time between us and Afghanistan fade into the past we should close our eyes, think about the place we inhabit, and how you are surrounded by a world changed by our deep empathy and commitment to our friends. All Americans should know that the volunteers of Afghan Evac changed the world in some oversized ways, but the real meaning can be found in the individual, and the families, and their lives. Our manifests, as it turned out, were life.
John Moses is a resident of Chelmsford, MA and has been an active member of the Afghan Evac community since the start of evacuation in August 2021. Retired from the Army after 23 years and 3 deployments, John continues to serve those Afghans he served with through the evacuation effort. He also serves as an executive for a technology start-up and as a member of his community through his 7th year of elected service on the Chelmsford School Committee. John is a champion for Afghan Evac case workers and volunteers time and effort to help with case worker resiliency efforts.
Photos of Afghans who were evacuated from Afghanistan provided by John and used with permission of the people in the photos.