You could not not read this story when it appeared a few days ago in the Los Angeles Times. Everything started with that headline: “ ‘I knew they were going to die.’ This foster father only takes in terminally ill children.”
Here was a well-told story about an unassuming Muslim man doing a heroic task. And -- he's an immigrant!
The Times wasn't going subtle with this message aimed at Donald Trump. Want to kick out immigrants, this article almost says. Want to start with this guy?
OK, we get the point. It is beautifully written, but there are some big blank spots. The story starts with:
The children were going to die.
Mohamed Bzeek knew that. But in his more than two decades as a foster father, he took them in anyway -- the sickest of the sick in Los Angeles County’s sprawling foster care system.
Now, Bzeek spends long days and sleepless nights caring for a bedridden 6-year-old foster girl with a rare brain defect. She’s blind and deaf. She has daily seizures. Her arms and legs are paralyzed.
Bzeek, a quiet, devout Libyan-born Muslim who lives in Azusa, just wants her to know she’s not alone in this life.
“I know she can’t hear, can’t see, but I always talk to her,” he said. “I’m always holding her, playing with her, touching her. … She has feelings. She has a soul. She’s a human being.”
The article then informs us that out of 35,000 children in the city’s foster care system, 600 of them are in dire medical straits. As for those who are dying, only one person is available to take care of any of them. The story doesn’t say it outright, but these are all children who were dumped by their parents.
“The key is, you have to love them like your own,” Bzeek said recently. “I know they are sick. I know they are going to die. I do my best as a human being and leave the rest to God.”
Bzeek’s only biological son, Adam, was born in 1997 — with brittle bone disease and dwarfism. He was a child so fragile that changing his diaper or his socks could break his bones.
Bzeek said he was never angry about his own son’s disabilities. He loved him all the same.
“That’s the way God created him,” Bzeek said.
Those were all the mentions of God I could find in the piece.
That son, by the way, is now 19 and a college student. Then you learn that Bzeek only gets paid $1,700 a month for this work. The article doesn’t explain what else supports him in this expensive area of the country, so readers set up a GoFundMe account for Bzeek that, as of this writing, had reached $139K.
Other than hospital visits and Friday prayers at the mosque, he rarely leaves the house, the article says.
I was dying to know more. First, what sort of Muslim (Sunni? Shi’ite?) is he? The article explains that he got into foster care through the woman he married (who has since died). Did his faith have anything to do with it? Does his faith help him in this impossible task?
How does his faith inform him about death, since he is part of so many deaths of innocent children? Or, how does his faith help him bear the sorrows of his task?
With this article, as with so many, it’s hard to know if the reporter did pose such questions and the subject didn’t answer, or if he evaded answering, or if the reporter simply did not ask.
By the way, there are sayings in the Quran about orphans.
If there's anyone reading this who hopes to write similar pieces, I hope you decide to include more of the warp and woof of that person's belief in Islam. It won't detract from the piece but instead help the rest of us understand how a person serves his God.