Welcome to a new year. As I get older I find that the years fly by much quicker, which feels a bit scary since there is still so much yet to do. Let's all pray that 2012 brings a bit less political divisiveness; a little more financial stability and true peace to the world.
Speaking of peace in the world, the Houston Chronicle recently devoted a lot of space to people who are making Houston a better place. We were so pleased that one of IM's own, Geleta Mekonnen, was featured as one of the everyday heroes who give their all to make Houston a great place to live. Geleta is such a humble person, I am sure that he was a bit embarrassed by all of the attention - but he deserves it.
If you missed the piece, Geleta is IM's long-time Assistant Director of Refugee Services. A refugee himself, Geleta embodies the spirit of IM. His primary focus is on his clients, his family and his faith community. For twenty years Geleta has provided a welcoming smile, wise counsel and a big heart to thousands of refugees, being what the Chronicle called a "fierce advocate." He is proof positive that new Americans make our community stronger.
None of this was easy. Geleta emigrated from Ethiopia where his family was landowners. Coming to America was not their choice - for I know personally that Geleta loves his home country. But come they did, and through perseverance and hard work, Geleta and his family are model Americans.
When Geleta last visited Ethiopia he came home with some artifacts. One sits on my desk. It is a symbol of religious diversity in Ethiopia and Geleta told me that he remembers a time when Ethiopia was known for its religious tolerance and political stability. That's the last time he remembers an Ethiopia at peace.
There's a lesson to be learned from that. Religious and political strife rips us apart. When we put aside our fears and prejudices, when we act on the positive religious values of all of our faiths, when we love one another as all children with a Divine spark, then and only then will we live in peace.
Thank you Geleta for inspiring us all with your dedication, skill, tenacity and love. Keep showing us the way. And may 2012 be a wonderful year for you, for everyone at IM and for all of humanity.
Speaking about refugees, I wanted to thank the community organizers of the Houston Holiday Tweet Drive, Joelle Eid and Candace Kizer for putting together the yearly holiday event that collects toys for a Houston charity. IM was chosen as the benefactor for the 2011 event which collected more than 480 books and toys for IM's refugee children. Thank you to everyone who participated in the event for helping brighten the lives of refugee children.