Recently I saw the film "The Kite Runner," showing in theaters across the US. It's a movie about cruelty, redemption, courage, and love. It tells the story of a man from Afghanistan, who, after spending years in California, returns to his homeland to help an old friend whose son is in trouble.
At times the events portrayed moved me to tears, but then I was also remembering Jarryd. This is his story and mine.
Jarryd came into the Christian Science Reading Room where I was serving as a volunteer. He was holding a large envelope and a scrap of paper. I greeted him, and with a heavy accent he said, "You speak English?" I nodded. With gestures and a few words, he conveyed that he needed help filling out an application for a local university. He had only his name and address written on the scrap of paper. I filled in the application as best I could with the information he struggled to give me. He wanted to study English and math. He said he was from Kabul in Afghanistan.
He came back into the Reading Room the following week and said that he'd been accepted by the college. He worked next door as a part-time chef and came in regularly to see me. As his English improved, his life history unfolded, and I tried to share with him what I understand Christian Science to be, the laws of God within each one of us. He got a copy of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, and started studying it.
He told me that he'd been a math teacher in Kabul, his parents were teachers, and his sister was a nurse. One day he said that the Taliban had come, demanding his sister for the use of the "troops." The family resisted. His mother and father were shot and killed, and Jarryd bolted out the back door. They shot at him, but he escaped. He got over the mountains to Pakistan, to a friend of the family, and then to his uncle in the United States. He said he didn't know what had happened to his sister, but later he learned that she had been raped and killed.
My heart went out to him. I'd seen many atrocities committed in my own country of Northern Ireland over many years by terrorists. I shared this with him. And I also spoke with him about forgiveness and its healing effect, and how I've found it helpful to see man as not cruel, belligerent, and warlike, but as the real man of God's creating: compassionate, concerned, and loving. He said that was difficult, but he would think about it.
Most conflicts are eventually resolved around a table with compromise and cooperation, as was the case in Northern Ireland. I prayed to see more clearly the man of God's creating – not at all prone to terrorism but kind and cooperative. I told him that this would help lead his people to peace.
Every time he came in, he had searching questions about Christian Science. I did my best to answer. I told him that God's laws included laws of safety and protection – for him and for his fiancée in Kabul. I prayed to understand more of this law of protection. I shared with him the 91st Psalm.
One day he came in beaming and told me that his fiancée had escaped from Kabul and was on her way to the US. They were soon married, and a year later they had a young son. Jarryd was very happy. As he said, "This helps assuage some of the hurt."
He graduated from the college with straight A's and got a job as a teacher. Then one day he came in and said that he'd decided to return to Kabul with his young family to see what he could do to help there. He said, "You know I am a Muslim, and I live in a Muslim community, but what you have here (pointing to a copy of Science and Health) is the truth, and I will be taking it back with me. I will never forget your kindness." We embraced. I never saw him again, but I have been knowing as the words from the Bible say, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee" (Isa. 26:3).