A modern Ruth?

NPR ran a piece this morning about an Iraqi woman, a single mother, who came to the US last year and is making a new life for herself. In listening to the piece I was struck by the similarities in the story as told by NPR and the biblical story of Ruth. The story was introduced as follows.

Last year, we introduced NPR audiences to a single mother of three who heads one of the first refugee families to arrive in Atlanta. Bothinaa Mohammed had worked for the U.S. Army in Iraq and was targeted as a traitor. She brought her family to the United States in late August 2007, after three years in Jordan. In Atlanta, she got a job as a hotel maid.

Bothinaa Mohammed has had some tough hurdles to overcome, her apartment burned last Christmas for example, but she is working and apparently very glad to be in the US. The story did not say whether or not she was a Christian but she seems to embrace Christmas, whether as a symbol of the West or Christ is not clear. The comparison with Ruth becomes clear at the end of the story.

About a week ago, she put up her Christmas tree. This year, it’s heavy with glittery bells and sparkling balls of every color.

“She feels when she look to this tree, it gives her some happiness or faithful or something like that,” the translator says.

Mohammed recently applied for a green card and hopes to get it soon. Some new Iraqi immigrants tried to persuade her to move to Maine, where they said she would get more financial help from the state. But she’s not going. Even though her life isn’t easy, it’s better this year, she says. Like many Americans, what she really wants is to be able to save enough money for a down payment on a home.

“America beautiful, good. America country, my country. I need buy house, buy everything,” Mohammed says, in halting English. She laughs. “I am here; I am die here.”

These final words echoed in my mind the words of Ruth.

Ruth 1:16 But Ruth said,
“Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
Where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
17     Where you die, I will die—
there will I be buried.
May the LORD do thus and so to me,
and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!”

I could offer various thoughts and tropes on these parallels but I will leave some of that for your comments. I am not sure if Ms. Mohammed’s comment “I need buy house, buy everything” is an example of an embracing of our consumerism or if it is simply a  mother wanting to provide for her family and the home is the symbol of stability and security. In any event, there is no doubt that Ms. Mohammed has embraced America as her own country and hopes to live and die here. I pray she has a Naomi and that her death may be a far off event.

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