The conversation begins with the weather.

“Beautiful, no?”

I say yes, this is why too many people live here.

He laughs, and from the backseat I watch the suburban sprawl dwindle to the rural gorge connecting the valley to the coast.

Talk of used cars and gasoline prices turns to war. He says in his heavy accent that we are seeing good and evil, where the evil is one solitary man and the good are countries like the one he came from.

“Where is that?”


His family is still there. They’ve been sending him stories of tragedy and hope from a few of the 2.7 million Ukrainian refugees seeking shelter in his homeland, wedged into Central Europe.

“We are not very big. But we must do this.”

Lake Hodges unfolds to the southwest, bordered by steep hills of chaparral and scrub oak. If I frame this just right, I can imagine what this area looked like before millions of people converged here.

Refugees of their own making, I suppose, as we all are… searching for shelter from uncertainty and pain on a minuscule scale relative to bombs and missiles, in a country not under attack by a sociopath destined to feed on power until he dies.

“You are lucky, to live in such a beautiful place.”

We’re almost to my house now, driving through wide stretches of open land hidden behind eucalyptus stands.

He leaves me in my driveway, where just before I close the rear passenger door, I say that I will pray for Ukraine, even though I’m not the praying type.

Because I don’t know what else to do, besides send a few dollars and use my gratitude to affect change here at home.

And wonder why sometimes the deepest flawed amongst us hold the greatest weight.

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