Mark E. Mishanie
Mark E. Mishainie writes from Baldwin New York.
Recently, while driving along a barren highway on a trip to Wyoming I stopped at a tiny town in the middle of nowhere that had a few dusty little convenience stores and a half rusted gas station.
There was a store on the lower floor of a two-story walk up building. It said "Jewelry and Chocolates" on the outside. Inside, there was a long set of rooms, half of which was devoted to glass cases of homemade chocolate and hot chocolate. The other half of the store was the jewelry shop, filled with cases of handmade jewelry.
I was immediately dazzled by all the beautiful Persian carpets on the floor. The chocolate shop was manned by a middle-aged gentleman with an accent I had trouble identifying. The jewelry shop was manned by a middle-aged lady with the same accent. She told me that she handmade all the jewelry while her husband made all the chocolates. They had a few teenage girls from the local area helping with the chocolates. "They are like our family," the lady said.
Most of their business, it turns out, came from tourists and tourist buses on the way to Montana and Utah and California. The tourists would stop here because the couple allowed them to use their bathrooms, and while they did the tourists also bought items from the store.
I told the lady how much I admired her Persian carpets and how surprised I was to find this decoration in the middle of nowhere. She laughed and said:
My husband and I have come here many years ago from Iran and we opened this shop, and we do okay, thank God. We come here because, we flee from our country because you see, my husband is originally Zoroastrian and I Baha'i, and they not like us in Iran and threaten us. Most of our families, they wind up in London, but we get here and that is a long story too.
The lady and her husband then took me to a room that was devoted to Baha'i prayer - a lovely tea room with couches where tea and cakes were served while prayer discussion commenced.
"We have Baha'i visitors who come," the lady explained:
They come from Wyoming and Montana and Utah. We pray for peace in the world and the end of violence and hatred. We pray for the unity of mankind.
I was immediately taken by the scene, and I bought some jewelry for my wife and chocolates (mostly to show my support for the couple). I then wished them Godspeed and peace and contentment for the rest of their days.
As I drove away, a thought crossed my mind: I live in America, a land of wealth and plenty where there is general peace; where there is religious and ethnic tolerance for the most part; where we can buy a home and a car and electronics; and where we can forget the problems of the rest of the world. But can we? Could I? Here in the middle of nowhere, I found the world and the terrible things that can happen that make people refugees and displaced citizens of the world. My conclusion: We can't close our eyes and make the rest of the world disappear. The world will always find us. *