'The Lovers & Fighters of America' is a weekly column here at Ravishly featuring behind-the-scenes stories of inspirational people taking a stance against hate.
Last week, Hailey Branson-Potts, of the LA Times wrote a story featuring Mohamed Bzeek, a Libyan-born Muslim man who moved to LA in the 1970s. Branson-Potts’ beautifully written glimpse into Bzeek’s life painted a picture of a gentle, loving man: devout in his faith, and in his mission to care for vulnerable children in need.
Branson-Potts allowed readers to share a day in the life of Bzeek, a one-of-a-kind foster father who opens his home to terminally ill children.
According to the LA Times article, Bzeek and his former wife Dawn began fostering local children together over twenty years ago. Often the children they fostered were unwell. And in 1991, they experienced their first loss of a child whose death, at the age of one, was hard to accept.
But Bzeek and his wife (whose own son, Adam, was later born with brittle bone disease and dwarfism) decided to foster only terminally ill children from that point onward. Reason being? It was a challenging role they knew nobody else was willing to fill.
Dawn and Mohamed’s marriage ended in 2013, and she passed away a year later. But for many years, they’d worked as a strong team to take in and care for unwanted kids in their final days, months, and years of life. Bzeek’s role as a caregiver and foster parent continued on, despite the breakdown of his marriage.
Currently, Bzeek has a 6-year-old, terminally ill girl in his care. She has been living with him and his son since she was one-month-old. His bedridden foster daughter has a rare brain defect. She is blind, deaf, and has arms and legs that are paralyzed. She also suffers from daily seizures, and requires frequent trips to the hospital.
The girl’s physician, Dr. Susanne Roberts, speaks highly of Bzeek’s role in the young patient’s life. “When she’s not sick, and in a good mood, she’ll cry to be held,” Roberts said. “She’s not verbal, but she can make her needs known … Her life is not complete suffering. She has moments where she’s enjoying herself, and she’s pretty content, and it’s all because of Mohamed.”
Bzeek wants his foster child to know she is not alone and he does what he can to let her know he is there for her. He told the LA Times, “I know she can’t hear, can’t see, but I always talk to her,” he said. “I’m always holding her, playing with her, touching her. … She has feelings. She has a soul. She’s a human being.”
Meanwhile last week, at her home in Oakland, California, 52-year-old Margaret Cotts was feeling overwhelmed, and suffering from depression amidst the post-election negativity.
When Cotts came across Branson-Pott’s story about Bzeek, she was deeply moved. She said, “I had just finished reading some really horrible hate speech on the internet and I was having a panic attack. Lately, I’ve been feeling disturbed and powerless at some of the hatred and ignorance I’ve been reading. When I came across Mohamed’s story and read it, I burst into tears. All that fear dissolved away, and I felt humbled. It was really reassuring to read about someone so good, who truly lives a spiritual life.”
Cotts felt a connection to Bzeek, as she explained to Ravishly. “My professional background is working with people with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). I think that's part of what moved me in Mohamed's article. I have cared for and loved so many of my former clients who died.”
Cotts noticed a comment under the LA Times’ piece. It read, “Someone should start a GoFundMe page for Mohamed Bzeek!” So, Cotts decided she'd be the one to start the page. She reached out to Branson-Potts who put her in touch with Mohamed and his son.
Cotts’ GoFundMe page has so far currently raised over $150,000 for the Bzeek family.
When we chatted with Cotts, she made it very clear that her role in this story was merely as an administrator for the fundraising page. It was Mohamed’s goodness, and Branson-Potts beautiful telling of his story, that has made for a successful fundraising campaign.
But Cotts also wanted us to know just how positively she’d been impacted by Bzeek’s story and the campaign that followed. She told Ravishly, “Setting up this campaign has been like getting spiritual shock therapy. It totally knocked me out of my depression. I am feeling happier and better than I have in a long time. I don’t feel so powerless anymore. A week ago, the world seemed very dark to me, and now I’m in a place of love, light, and action.”
As the donations and well wishes continue to come in, Bzeek remains humble yet grateful. Cotts has been in communication with him, over the phone, and tells us, “He is very moved and grateful for all the support. I can’t describe what an incredibly lovely, gentle, and humble person he is. It has been an honor and a privilege to be able to do this.”
Cotts holds this kindhearted man in high regard, and her words are the perfect way to end this week's column. Cotts told Ravishly, “Sorry for quoting Batman, but I think that Mohamed is the ‘hero we need.’ In this time of so much fear and uncertainty and hatred, he seems like a miracle of love.” And we couldn't agree more.
We are honored to feature Mohamed Bzeek as this week’s inspirational lover and fighter, here at Ravishly. Thank you for your wonderful contributions to the lives of these children, Mr. Bzeek. The world is truly a better place with you, and your kind heart, in it.
If you’d like to donate to the Bzeek family, you can do so here: GoFundMe.
If you know an inspirational Lover & Fighter whom you’d like to see featured on Ravishly, send a message to Shannon Day, via Facebook.
Lovers & Fighters say "hell no" to racism, sexism, bigotry, and xenophobia. These men, women, and children are saying "heck yes" to equality, human decency, and love. From bold acts of advocacy to simple moments of goodness, these everyday people remind us of what it truly means to be American.
These lovers and fighters are resistant in the face of intolerance. They are bold in the presence of judgment. They are determined to join forces (or to stand proudly alone) to ensure their message is heard: #LoveTrumpsHate