An open letter to the coronavirus from a refugee who has already seen too much suffering
Habibeh Amini

Editor's Note: I met Habibeh last year while reporting on refugees stuck in limbo in Indonesia. She is a brilliant young woman whose hopes of becoming a lawyer were dashed when she was forced to flee a dangerous homeland. Now she's stuck in a country with no legal protections, no opportunity to work, and little chance of being resettled elsewhere. When I spoke with her, she astounded me with her intelligence and passion for justice, as well as her mastery of English (which she just started learning in 2017). I've left her essay unedited because the raw pain and beauty of her words should be read exactly as they were written.

Hello Corona!

It has been a while since we heard you arrived to our planet. To be honest, your arrival was glorious for me. I heard you hit everyone the same way. Whoever opens the door for you. Whoever inadvertently invites you in. You accept everyone's invitation. You do not look at their wealth and their position. You become a guest in their bodies and their spirits. I heard that you asked everyone to stay at home. You closed every party, gathering, business trip and recreational hangout. You changed the rules.

You are the first disaster that did not follow just the miserable country to country, city to city, town to town, street to street, house to house. Your destination was not just my home country to kill my people. You're not thinking of race and belief. You did not come to insult us, to humiliate us, to crush our cracked pride and add salt to our wounds. You did not just come to make rules and take away what remains for us: our lives and our hope of union with our beloved ones. You didn't come to look down at us. We were not your only target. You see us like other human beings. You didn't just go to my home country to destroy it more than it already is.

That is why I want to have a little chat with you.


I want to tell you the story of my country, the story of people like me.

I am talking about the land where terrorists assaulted maternity hospitals to kill expectant mums, the ones who had just given birth and the newborn babies. They killed the most innocent and defenseless people in the world.

I am talking about the land where children have grown up with apprehension and fear. They played with bullets and cartridges. They have learned arithmetic by counting the number of bullet holes in the walls of the city.

The land where crayons have just two colors: red and black, blood and death.

The land where girls are silent. Even when they are attacked and harassed by caddish people. They remain silent on the basis of culture. Because of course, good and noble women are silent!

It's the land where women and girls bury their wishes. They knot the design of death on a carpet of dreams a thousand times a day.

I am talking about the land where mothers stand on the crossroad of death, waiting. Stuck between the dilemma of choosing to dedicate their youth to the angel of death in their ancestral land, or send them away in hopes of a better future. And in hopes of seeing them again, they cry out with all their maternal sentiments over the prayer mats lining the way.

The land where the young generation gamble death and life. Either they stay and are shot or they leave to a foreign land seeking a future void of blood and bullets.

I am talking about the land where people have nothing to lose except hope.

I am talking about the land where people forget how to laugh.

I am talking about the land where sorrow, pain and suffering are born.

So Corona, you came to give people the bitter taste of waiting for a few months. Before your arrival we were the only ones. Then you came and, without any prejudice, told everybody to wait.

Believe me, these few months of sitting is nothing compared to our years and years of waiting in hell. Waiting to find a place to stay, a place to call home. Waiting for a moment to see our loved ones again, to calm our exhausted bodies and feverish souls. Our lives are chopped up and the pieces unfairly rearranged by people who know nothing of the concept of misery and displacement. Those who do not know that time doesn't always heal wounds, sometimes it just makes them worse. A long time stuck waiting kills the soul. A long time stuck waiting defeats hope and breeds defeat.

People give up.

Homeless refugee tents in JakartaHabibeh Amini

I am talking about people who have lost their mental health and are found in the corners of the psychiatric hospitals. Or homeless, in the ruins of the city. Either way, they have forgotten themselves forever.

I am talking about people who committed suicide.

I am talking about people whose pain in their souls is so much bigger than the hope in their hearts. Those who ended their lives in flames in the hope that the phoenix of justice may have been borne of their ashes.

I am talking about people who have been expelled from their land because of their race and their belief. And now find themselves stuck in limbo, waiting for the grace of others to decide their fate.

I am talking about people who don't have any control over any aspect of their lives.

I am talking about the miserable who don't have anywhere to live in this world. No house is their home; no land is their land.

I am talking about people like me. I am talking about refugees.

We are stuck in a corner of the world far from our loved ones. You know, some of us have not seen our dear ones for years. We are human beings with all the human emotions and human needs, but without the human rights. Some of us are alive on people's charity. And with every bite of food that goes down of our throat, it is as if we shoot a dagger at our souls and injure our pride. Sometimes we want to turn off our feelings but a human is a human and we all have feelings, even if they are weary and painful emotions. Every time we get hurt, we break, but we get up just for the love of seeing our beloved ones once again. We get up hopeful but more stricken than before. I wish we could shake off the sad and hurtful parts of feeling but alas, it doesn't work that way. We can't numb our emotions selectively. And we need feeling. We need the strength of love to fight for survival.

No one understands the pain of waiting as much as we do. We silently suffer with it. We have no rights to protest. The smallest protest may cost us or our loved ones. We do not even have a right to speak our mind. We just have to thank and accept everything. When you said stay at our house, we simply said okay, without any question.

We are fighting to survive in the corner of rooms dampened by the smell of death. We go to bed at nights with the terror of the next day. Tablecloths without food make parents wilt in front of their starved kids. Our children learn the unfair game of life in narrow, dark rooms with small windows facing cemeteries of terror. I wish you wouldn't touch these people. They have had enough. Their destiny was already filled with suffering enough.

So Corona, I am writing to you because you do not grin at our misery. On this earth, we are not judged by our hearts and our talents. We are judged by our misery and our misfortune.

I feel that we are the last creatures in this planet that matter. Some of us are lucky enough to find a country to settle in, eventually. It seems the rest of us are doomed to be forgotten at this period of history. And over time, termites of despair have taken over our entire souls. We become people who are no longer ourselves. When did we sign up for this?

I am thinking that justice has been divided in this world in a very unfair way. I came from a land where justice was exiled thanks to an unwritten terrestrial agreement.

For years, I was impatiently waiting, impatiently hoping, impatiently praying for the defenders of justice. They did not come. Now, I know they were as real as fiction. Justice is a mirage. In our land, human rights shine beautifully in the books, articles, declarations and seminars. Justice is for others, and not for us.

I found if we were seeking help in private, nobody would turn because no one else would see their generosity and give them some credit. If we apply for help in public, many people reach for us like a competition. For them helping people is not about the kindness. It is for their own good. They don't care about our dignity and our pride. We are the tools and ladders for them to climb higher.

Among all these bitter facts there is one sweet truth. There are anonymous people who don't claim to be defenders of human rights. They are not looking for any status and fame. These people might be in any position and social status, but they help others sincerely and secretively. They don't use people's misery to get themselves in a higher position. They are the real defenders of humanity. Their hearts are full of kindness and love. If we survive in this planet full of inequity, it is because of these earthly angels. They are the guardians of human dignity.

There are not too many of them but without them, the universe will be empty of love. Without them, the earth will be empty of humanity. They are the assets of this earth. They have kept the candle of hope lit in the icy heart of the earth. They are the only hope for the salvation of this planet.

So Corona, please do not step into the house of their bodies and souls. Please leave the earth in the honor of these good people.

Please…

I am looking forward to hearing of your departure from the earth.

Sincerely,

Habibeh

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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True

2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less