I am a Syrian American living the tragedy of division within the two parts of my identity. Our family has taken a new home in Ellicott City and opened Syriana Cafe and Gallery, through which we share our heritage and empower Syrian refugees.

Amid the destruction of the May floods, I saw a chance to convert the very agonizing pain into a bridge between my divided communities: a fundraiser among Syrian Americans around the country to give back to a community that embraced the Syrian people.

While the Syrian community has been exhausted providing to the needy in a prolonged war, swift donations came from across the country, large and small, from Syrians supposedly divided across many political and sectarian lines. They were eager to give to the communities that cared for their people, the victims of a brutal war.

Amid deepening views on immigrants and questions about their role in the American experiment, this fundraiser symbolized our eagerness as immigrants to contribute to this beautiful America and not to be a burden on it. We don’t take American generosity for granted but feel indebted to it and committed to giving back.

America taught me how to be proud of my heritage without having prejudice, how enriching is diversity and how destructive is divisiveness. Caring for each other is the scaffold that gathers all. The same lesson can help my shattered Syrian people heal the wounds of a bloody war.

Majd AlGhatrif, Ellicott City