Sometimes there just isn’t enough time to pull together the three pots of Somali Tea and Coffee (see posts 1/16/19 and 1/30/19 Coffee and Tea 1 and 2). This past Friday was one of those times.
Friday morning I heard about the shooting in New Zealand, two mosques, fifty people killed during Friday prayers. My heart broke. Should I try to organize a Coffee and Tea? Post on FaceBook? Write something somewhere? Nothing? I couldn’t decide so I called Wali at ICSA/Dar Al-Hijrah to see what he thought. We decided not to try to get the Coffee and Tea together. On a whim I said I’d try to be there at the end of prayers, around 1:30 to greet people. He said he’d tell the imam so that he could announce it.
I texted a few people I thought might be interested and available. At about 1:15 I began to walk the two blocks to Dar Al-Hijrah.
I am off-the-chart introvert. An introvert’s two worst nightmares, or at least mine, are walking into a room full of people I probably don’t know and standing somewhere with the purpose of greeting people I may not know, alone. On my way to Dar Al-Hijrah I wondered what in the world I was doing. Would anyone else show up? Would people coming out of prayers be concerned or grateful? What if I was the only one? What if I didn’t recognize anyone? What if no one recognized me? And, I’d have to do all of the greeting myself. That is not something I would categorize as fun.
At the same time, I was fairly sure it was a good thing to do. I knew Muslims everywhere were very sad and feeling unsafe and unwelcome.. But still, the thought kept running through my head – what was I doing?
As a general rule I am not comfortable greeting people with Aselam Alekum (“God’s peace to you,” in Arabic.) Even though I have been assured many times that people would appreciate it, somehow it just feels presumptuous to me. This time I thought I’d go for it. I would be brave. After all, I was already putting myself out there. So, I greeted the first person a saw, an elderly woman who looked kind enough, “Aselam alekum.” She looked at me and asked, “Are you Islam?” “No, I’m not.” Then you should say, “hi.” She was kind and respectful. And that was that. So much for trying!
Eventually Joe came and Larry soon joined us. The worshipers began coming out and we greeted them all. If they weren’t smiling when they came out the doors, they were after we greeted them.
“Hi.” “Peace to you.” We’re glad you’re here.”
“Thank you so much.” “This is so good.” “There are good people in the world.” Once in awhile the only communication was a grateful smile.
Some stayed to talk a bit. We shook hands; some of the men even shook mine. A few hugs were shared. Several people even came back to thank us. One young man, in particular, came back to thank us (I was the only one left by this time) telling me this was proof that there are still good people in the world. He asked for a selfie he could share with others to let them know that there are good people. I took a selfie, too. One of the few I have ever taken. This seemed to be a worthy reason for one.
There was no coffee or tea on this day. There weren’t a lot of people gathered to greet worshippers. But, there were enough. On my way back to Trinity I knew why we had been there. I knew something seemingly small and simple can have had a big meaning. I knew at least a few of the Muslims in Cedar-Riverside knew they were welcome and valued. I was quite sure we had done something that brought God’s kingdom just a bit closer. Right in Little Mogadishu.
And I knew we would do it again, sometime.
I have my selfie with the young man. I’d love to use it for this post. But I didn’t think to ask his permission at the moment. This seems like a time when it is especially important to have his permission. Perhaps another time.
Original Journal entry date: 3/18/19
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