Saboor Sahely grew up in eastern Afghanistan’s Laghman province. He remembers the village in which he was raised as being like a big family, with neighbors coming and going freely from each other’s homes, sharing food, and attending one another’s celebrations.
In Logan, he got a job as at a restaurant as a dishwasher and quickly moved up to cook, eventually becoming a district manager. But the restaurant ran into financial problems and closed. Saboor used the money he had saved to purchase the building, and in 1983 he opened Angie’s Restaurant—named after his then 2-year-old daughter.
Starting 26 years ago, Angie’s Restaurant began offering free meals to the Logan community on Thanksgiving. Saboor came to StoryCorps with his younger daughter, Jessica, to talk about his life in Afghanistan, and how the lessons he learned continue to inspire him.
Originally aired November 25, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition. Produced for Morning Edition by Von Diaz.
StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Listen to our stories here.
Saboor Sahely (SS) and Jessica Sahely (JS)
SS: I vividly remember there was a lot of happiness and joy in Eastern Afghanistan. If there was a wedding, the entire village would show up. And you felt very welcomed to go into 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 all went to the neighbor’s house…
SS: So, um…
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 gonna figure out a way to get to this faraway magic land someday. Then Afghanistan basically plunged into a long civil war. And, uh, my father wanted me to leave the country because he knew that things are gonna get worse.
JS: So what did you do for work here?
SS: 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 a—I became a cook—and then assistant manager.
After that we opened the restaurant, and we’ve treated every single customer as if they are a 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 okay. And we go to their funerals, we go to their weddings. These people 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 made sure that she’ll have a plate full 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.