He was a Man

His name is was Daniel Admassu. You don't know him. He is was a taxi driver in Columbia. For five years he drove his taxi 16 hours a day and saved his earnings in order to prepare an honorable home for his wife and two children who waited in Ethiopia for word that it was time to journey here and start a new life together. One year ago his family joined him in a home he purchased with money earned from 16 hour days behind the wheel. Two weeks ago Daniel died doing what he believed might offer his children life. A mentally ill 20 something shot him in his taxi. My name is Amos Disasa. Daniel and I come from the same country but we are not related. Still, the Ethiopian community in Columbia is small enough to claim all the women as your aunts and all the men as your uncles. Within this large city the Ethiopians belong to a small village. For the last two weeks our village has mourned Daniel's death together with his wife and two boys who now have experienced the American dream and nightmare in the span of 12 months.

I didn't know Daniel well in life, but I know his story. Sadly, if Daniel hadn't died I might have forgot it. My second-generation Ethiopian cousins and contemporaries that call Columbia home each have a Daniel that they call Ababa (father in Amharic, our language). Their fathers persisted against odds that appear fantastical in hindsight to offer their children and unborn grand-children the possibility of becoming pastors, doctors, lawyers, bankers, and college graduates. Like Daniel, they sacrificed their own comfort - Daniel was a regional bank manager in Ethiopia - for us. They each set something aside, allowing it to die, so their children might live.

As I learn more of Daniel's sacrifice through conversations with aunts and uncles, I return to the truth that Daniel was a Man. I don't mean this in a sexist way but I struggle to find another means to express it. And tragically, it took his death for me to realize why exactly I revered my own father. My father left everything behind for a dimly lit future witnessed only through the lens of faith and evidenced by the sweat of hard work. If either faith or work ceased to be, there was no safety net or second chance.

Unlike my father, Daniel only saw a glimpse of that future in the year he spent with his two boys and wife. Was that enough? I don't know. I do know that the good news of the gospel promises that the tragedy of his death can also lead to new life. I think new life in this instance will be partly defined by those entrusted with the legendary story of his sacrifice and death. Daniel is dead but even those of us who barely knew him can call into the tomb, like Jesus did with Lazarus, and summon new life by loving others so intensely that we forget about ourselves.