The Deacon's Bench

A former Afghan refugee remembers the humanitarian aid worker, Tom Little, killed in Afghanistan last week:

Life changes in an instant, and the improbable connection a quarter-century ago between an Afghan refugee boy, Aria Sabit, and Tom Little, the Delmar optometrist murdered last week in a suspected Taliban ambush in Afghanistan, underscored that fragility.

If it weren’t for the kindness of Little and his wife, Libby, and a sponsorship from First Presbyterian Church in Schenectady in 1984, Sabit and his family might still be packed 10 to a room and languishing in the mud hut of a refugee camp in Pakistan after fleeing the Soviet invasion of their homeland.

Today, Sabit is a successful and newly wealthy 35-year-old neurosurgeon living in Ventura, Calif., with an office overlooking the Pacific Ocean and an abiding appreciation for the humanitarianism and selflessness of Tom Little and the 30 years he devoted to running a free eye clinic for the poor in Afghanistan.

“I ended up being a neurosurgeon for a reason, and Tom Little was a big part of it,” Sabit recalled in a phone interview Wednesday. “I’ll never forget coming from a country at war and then meeting Tom. He was a very gentle soul. Without him and his church, I wouldn’t be where I am.”

It was snowing in late March 1984 when Little arrived in his small station wagon to pick up the six-member Sabit family at the Albany airport. Aria was 10 and the oldest of the four kids.

“Here was this tall man with glasses and he bent down, shook my hand, rubbed my head and said, ‘Welcome to America,’?” Sabit recalled.

Read the rest. It’s remarkable and moving.

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