A handful of years ago, I had just gotten off of a double shift that included a graveyard. I was tired, grouchy, and still in my scrubs from my job at an Adult Foster Home.
I was at the point of being too tired to sleep, so I had gone into town to do some errands before having to get back for another double shift. I hoped I could burn off some of the jitters so I could grab at least few hours of shut eye.
I was digging through one of those $5 movie bins at Walmart trying to find anything that wasn’t a B-rated movie. A gentleman stopped by just as a family of three walked off with a handful of cartoons and boxes of candy.
He murmured a hello, and I flashed a quick polite, yet distant smile as I continued to dig. I barely registered his white skullcap or his traditional white religious shirt and trousers.
After a minute or two of quiet digging he cleared his throat. “Doesn’t seem to be much in here.”
I chuckle and shrug, “No, but I keep hoping there’s a diamond in here.”
“Yes. Something to eat up the hours while waiting for the sun to come up again.” He sighed as he started to stack the DVD cases.
“I’m doing a run of graveyard shifts so I understand that.” I flipped through a few more movies as his pile became larger. He started a second and third pile and I realized he was separating them.
“Are you a nurse?” He asked with polite hesitancy on the word while motioning at my Eeyore covered scrubs.
“A caregiver. I work with the elderly.” Then, through my exhaustion, I noticed his sad look and nervous hand motions.
“That has to be hard. Do any of them…do any of them have Alzheimer’s?” He stopped fooling with the DVD cases and smoothed down his shirt.
I also stopped flipping through the movies to look at him. A gentleman who was probably in his late 50s with his own brand of exhaustion lining his face. There was a mixture of fear, sadness, and a hint of desperation in his eyes.
“Yes. I have a few clients with Alzheimer’s. I’ve worked with those living with that nasty disease for a number of years now.” A light seemed to enter the man’s eyes as I talked.
“My mother has it. I had to go home to collect her. Iran is all she ever has known. It’s so different here. I wonder if I did her wrong, bringing her here.” He rubbed his face with frustration.
I desperately wanted to give him a grounding touch on his arm at that moment, something to show him that he wasn’t alone. But, respecting his religious garb and the vague knowledge I have of his culture, I refrained and attempted to pour all that compassion and concern into my words.
“It’s never wrong to take on the hard duty of caring for your parent. It’s a lot of sacrifice. Do you have family here to help?”
“No, I’m all that’s left. That’s why I brought her here.” He started digging through the movies again. “She is so angry. Some days she throws things, others she screams. Some, she just weeps. I come here to Walmart just to wander the aisles. Just to breathe without her. Then I feel guilty for leaving her. What if something happened? My mother was never a happy woman, but now she is just so….just so full of hate. I am so tired.”
“It is tiring. Especially if you can’t take time for yourself. Does your mosque have any community services to help? I know of a few, such as Catholic Services that help in the home. If nothing else they can come for a few hours so you can go for a walk or do errands.” I wracked my brain for any of the local community services that were available for such issues. “Or a neighbor you’d trust to watch her for an hour? Someone who could do with a little money?”
“I am no longer connected to my mosque since moving down here. It’s been a few years, most of my friends are gone. They don’t want to be around a man who is worried about his mother all the time.” He sighed. “It just keeps getting worse. Some mornings, I hope she might not wake-up. I’m a horrible son.”
“You aren’t horrible! You’re burning out. You need support. I know it’s hard to even to contemplate, but if she is getting too hard to handle, you might have to think about putting her in retirement home. Where they can have someone able to watch her 24 hours a day. It’s hard to think it might be time for that, but it might be best for both of you.” The man looked near tears as I finished speaking.
“I’m just so lost. I just want to do the best for her.” He looked at his watch and sighed. “I should get going. I’ve taken up your time and I have left her too long. Thank you for talking with me.”
Nervously, I offered, “Sir, would you mind if I pray for you? I don’t want to offend you, but I’d really like to.”
He smiled, “Prayers are always welcomed. I’m assuming you are Christian?”
So, at that moment I prayed for this gentleman from Iran in traditional Muslim religious garb who was worried about being a good son to his ill mother. I prayed for wisdom for the next step, patience in his care, comfort for the mother, and a community that would support them.
After I finished, he patted my hand that rested on the movie bin. “Thank you young lady for listening to my rambles. For your compassion.” He left with a blessing to Allah.
It was a chance encounter. Two very weary people wanting to find rest. 40 minutes of talking. I’ve never seen that man again. I never found out his name. But, I think of him often.
It wasn’t my first conversation with someone in the Muslim faith. I’ve always had very nice cordial interactions with them before and since. But, this interaction in particular has constantly reminded me how very human each of us truly are.
With all the constant news regarding terrorism, al Qaeda, and now ISIS, it is sometimes difficult to remember that the 1% of “Muslims” who are killing, do not speak for the other 99%. Men and women who are just living life the best they can. They have the same hopes, fears, and yes, even enemies as we do.
I, as a Christian, do not want to be lumped into the same group as those who are fanatics proclaiming to be apart of my faith. I don’t want to be associated with the 1% of “Christians” who attack people out of fear and hate. The KKK, Westbro Baptists, those who attack people who appear to be different than the “righteous,” do not speak for me, my faith, or in the name of my God.
Why do we insist on doing the same to Muslims?
When ISIS attacked European cities over the last couple of months, worldwide tears were shared. When an attack on a LGBT friendly nightclub in Orlando was found to have links to support for ISIS, tears and rainbows abounded. Hours of news reports flooded the tv.
We were united in condemning the actions of terrorists. Domestic and international.
I applaud the actions of compassion and unity. Show your support.
But, then I start hearing the troubling news of innocent people being attacked as they attempt to go to local mosques. Bomb threats on places of worship. Where children are. And I am ashamed of my 1%. The 1% Christians who spew vitrol out on social media hidden by their keyboards, the 1% of Americans who think hate makes us safer hiding behind their patriotic pride.
It saddens me more as I hear of the numerous terrorist attacks in the Middle East being linked to ISIS. Of the Muslims being slaughtered during their holiest of months, because they weren’t willing to partner with their 1%.
But where is the outcry? Where are the tears and the show of unity? Where are the candlelight vigils?
“For God so loved the world” Nowhere in the Bible does it say, “everyone but them.” You cannot condemn the actions of a terrorist group but be quiet when they kill those who share the same faith system.
Turkey has had at least 7 attacks this year. I’ve only heard about this recent one in passing on the news. I certainly didn’t read about it on social media. Other Middle Eastern cities have been attacked by advancing ISIS soldiers as well. But, it’s just silence until it spills over into Europe or America again.
It’s not right. As a Christian, I believe that every single person on this earth is a child of God’s. Whether we call him our Father or not, we are still his. So I must grieve when I hear about more senseless deaths and terror.
The 1% does not control my actions. Fear does not make me hate. Instead, when the days get dark, I remember my Iranian friend who let me pray for him in Walmart.
I remember that love is always stronger than fear and hate.
We are all children of God. And I love you because you are family. And I will grieve with and for you. You are loved.