A Morning in the “Howard Johnson”
Author’s Note: While it’s now known as the Best Value Inn, I went with Howard Johnson as proof that I’m a Saint Johner already — because we’re always calling places by what they used to be!
I was barely awake, still jet-lagged. I dragged myself out of bed to have breakfast and then it happened. I heard a familiar yet foreign language. Yes, it was Arabic. The whole lounge was full of Canadians accompanying Arab families. I was so intrigued that I lost my appetite for the buffet that stood before me. I approached a friendly-looking lady and this is when my soon-to-be epiphany moment happened. She explained, “Saint John just received the big first Syrian response.”
Call it fate, destiny, or coincidence: Me, straight from Jerusalem, Israel, landing here in this particular hotel, at this particular time, and place. I knew it had to have happened for a reason. I had never been in close contact with Muslims, other than in a hostile army situation, like the ones I had seen in my home country.
I immediately told myself no matter how hard this journey would be it was all worth it. This is where I want my son’s future to be, in a place where there’s no ancient conflict or sustained war. A place where people of every ethnicity, religion, nationality, and culture can eat breakfast. Where freedom and safety are present.
I approached the table beside me and asked the Canadian lady which organization she was from and how lucky the families were to have such close and caring assistance. She told me she was part of the “Welcome Team” from “Newcomer Connections” at the YMCA of Greater Saint John. I knew then and there where I wanted to work.
It became my goal. I kept thinking how fortunate I was. I have the language and education as well as some knowledge of the western culture. I knew I had an advantage that I could use to help others in a similar situation. As someone going through the immigration process, I was aware of the challenges that I was facing and came to terms with the fact that it would not be easy. Yet, knowing I could give guidance and make the transition easier for others made me realize my true calling.