I was in Minneapolis yesterday morning. When I returned my rental car at the MSP airport parking garage, a pleasant black man in his late 20s or early 30s (or so he looked) took care of processing the car for me. He seemed genuinely pleased when I asked him if he was from Somalia. My guess is that he was also probably surprised to meet an American who could tell. Anyway, we chatted for about 5 minutes about this and that, including about how many Somalis are coming to the U.S. He must have been able to tell from my accent, because he asked if I was from California.
“Yes,” I said, “though now I live in Columbus, Ohio.” I mentioned that Columbus has a large Somali population. He agreed, but added that the single largest population concentration of Somalis outside Somalia is in Minneapolis. He expressed great dismay over the violence and chaos reigning back home in Somalia.
I asked how often he gets to go back home for a visit.
“Never,” he said. “If I go back there right now,” he told me matter-of-factly, “the tribe in power there would kill me immediately.”
“What? Why?” I asked.
“Because my tribe ran the old government. The new people kill all of us if they can.”
He seemed to be a genuinely friendly guy, and his English was reasonably good — which indicated to me that he was making every effort to learn the language and, guessing from his jocularity, engage with Americans.
Normally, when I’m dropping off a rental car somewhere, there’s not much in the way of a conversation beyond, “How’s it going?” and “Thanks for your help.” But this young man was an affable exception.
As I turned to walk away, I smiled and said, “God bless you!” I quickly checked my sports jacket pockets for one of the Divine Mercy holy cards I try to carry around with me. But wouldn’t you know it, at that particular moment, I didn’t have one. I was praying for him, though, as I walked into the terminal.