StoryCorps: From Afghanistan To U.S., A Lesson In Love — One Thanksgiving At A Time When Saboor Sahely left Afghanistan for the U.S. in 1978, he bore a lesson with him: love for his community. Now a restaurant owner in Utah, he has given out free Thanksgiving meals for 26 years.
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From Afghanistan To U.S., A Lesson In Love — One Thanksgiving At A Time

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From Afghanistan To U.S., A Lesson In Love — One Thanksgiving At A Time

From Afghanistan To U.S., A Lesson In Love — One Thanksgiving At A Time

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(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It is Friday, time for StoryCorps. And we have a story about giving back. Saboor Sahely grew up in Afghanistan with a large extended family. In 1978, he decided to move to the United States. And here he talks with his youngest daughter, Jessica, about coming to America and the Afghan traditions he brought with him.

SABOOR SAHELY: I vividly remember there was a lot of happiness and joy in eastern Afghanistan. If there was a wedding, the entire villages would show up. And you felt very welcome to going to each other's homes. And we knew who had what for dinner every night. And if we didn't like what we had for dinner, we always went to the neighbor's house.

JESSICA SAHELY: (Laughter).

SAHELY: So the summers are very, very hot. Everyone slept on the rooftop. And I vividly remember this old lady next door to us that would talk every night about her grandson, a student in the United States. That's when I heard the name of a country called America.

I kept thinking, you know, I'm going to figure out a way to get to this far-away, magic land someday. Then Afghanistan basically plunged into a long civil war. And my father wanted me to leave the country because he knew that things are going to get worse.

SAHELY: So what did you do for work here?

SAHELY: One Sunday, I came to this restaurant. I walk in there. And the dishwasher hadn't shown up. And the manager asked me, when can I start? And I said, right away. I did that for a few months. And he moved me on, as I became a cook and then assistant manager.

After that, we opened the restaurant. And we've treated every single customer as if they were part of our family. We have many regulars that eat three meals a day in our restaurant. And if they don't show up, we call them to make sure they're OK. We go to their funerals. We go to their weddings. These people have put shoes on my children's feet. And they deserve the best.

So we should turn around and give something back every single chance we get. You know, my grandmother - she knew that most of the village did not have enough to eat. So whatever we had for dinner every night - she'd made sure that you had a plateful that I had to carry to different homes.

So when I was in a position to give something back, we thought, on Thanksgiving Day, we're going to open our doors to anybody and everybody. Last year, for instance, we had over 800 people that come to the door. We're very, very lucky. And I don't take that for granted at all.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: That's Saboor Sahely and his daughter Jessica in Logan, Utah. This is the 26th year they provided free Thanksgiving dinner to their community. Their StoryCorps conversation will be archived at the Library of Congress.

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