She’s just a little bit of a thing standing barely over five feet tall. Her thick, dark curly hair might add a couple inches but her smile is just as wide as she is tall. Her name is Nurie and she works at the hair salon my friend owns so I see her about every six weeks. Her warm personality is endearing and I find myself drawn to her. She is a fascinating person to talk to - that is if you can understand her thick accent. She hails from Kosovo and I’ve picked up bits and pieces of her story during my time under the dryer. You’d never know what she’s endured just by looking at her. She is tiny in stature but strong in spirit.
One of the first things she shared was that her father was an educated man and her home was like a dormitory since he was always inviting kids in so he could teach them as he believed knowledge offered freedom. However, since reading books while riding public transportation was prohibited, he was not held in high esteem by local authorities and was frequently beaten and thrown into prison for undetermined amounts of time. Nurie, her mother and her brothers and sisters never knew how long he would be gone or if he’d even come back. This went on for months until eventually he succumbed to injuries from blunt force trauma to the head.
I listened to her tell this story with wide eyes and a slack jaw because it’s so far removed from my normal life much less my imagination! I can’t even wrap my head around such terror but then she continued. She told me that she and her sister didn’t wear pajamas to bed for fear they never knew if they might have to run in the middle of the night so they would take turns staying awake to listen for footsteps. I couldn’t help but shake my head at how different my life compares to hers. However, the story she shared just last week stands in stark contrast to the others. I asked her if she missed “home” and if she ever wanted to go back. She wrapped her arms around her waist and said, “I miss the Sunday dinners with my family the most.” She was standing in front of me but I could tell her heart was a million miles away – across an ocean - and happier times suddenly filled her thoughts. In her thick accent she continued, “Every week we would have all of our family together and we would eat a meal that lasted four to five hours. We’d start with salad, then move on to several different meats that included, chicken, sausage, roast, and so on. Then we would have olives and cheese and sip wine before we ate our many dishes of vegetables and later into the evening we’d finish with fruit…and we’d laugh. We’d laugh so hard we’d have to hold our sides because it hurt. My father wouldn’t allow us to speak of the war. It was a time to be happy and celebrate life and love and family…everything good in the world.”
I left my appointment not with just my hair color lifted! My spirit was inspired by a woman whose family could have allowed war to rip them apart but instead chose to come together over the dinner table and celebrate what truly matters. Many couples, while not in a war zone physically, feel that way emotionally. When marriage goes from better to worse it can feel like a war zone as hurtful words fly like bullets across the living room and simple conversations have the potential to turn the bedroom into a battlefield. What if we stopped letting our schedules tear us apart? What if we used our words to build our spouse up instead of tear them down? What if we simply set aside one day a week to sit around the dinner table with the people we love most and celebrated life, love and family and everything good in the world?
“So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that this pleasure is from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him?" Ecclesiastes 2:24-25a