Relying On The Kindness Of Strangers
“So, as I flew towards the Middle East, my mind was full of the usual 10pm buzzwords: radical extremists, fanatics, forced marriages, suicide bombers and jihad. Not much of a travel brochure.
My very first experience, though, could hardly have been more positive. I had arrived on the West Bank without a coat, as the Israeli airport authorities had kept my suitcase.
Walking around the centre of Ramallah, I was shivering, whereupon an old lady grabbed my hand.
Talking rapidly in Arabic, she took me into a house on a side street. Was I being kidnapped by a rather elderly terrorist? For several confusing minutes I watched her going through her daughter’s wardrobe until she pulled out a coat, a hat and a scarf.
I was then taken back to the street where I had been walking, given a kiss and sent warmly on my way. There had been not a single comprehensible word exchanged between us.” – Tony Blair’s Sister In Law
Yesterday I had an “uh-oh” moment. But a serious, “What am I doing?!” uh-oh moment.
Eryn decided to play with my face in the wee hours the night before, and we were so exhausted that we slept in for our Friday fun reading session at the library. It takes me about 15 minutes to walk there with Eryn in her carrier — and we were running out of the house with about 10 minutes to spare.
She skipped breakfast, I couldn’t find her jacket, crammed her into her thick hoodie that she outgrew 6 months ago, and left forgetting her hat. Of course, it was windy and cold. So there I was trying to keep her tiny hood on with one hand while feeding her Cheerios with the other.
That’s when a woman started waving at me from her car.
I stopped thinking she needed directions. Instead she said:
“Sabbah ul-kheir” (Good morning!)
“Sabbah an-noor” (Right back at ya.)
“Fein raiha?” (Where are you going?)
“Uhh… to the library, why?”
“You have no car seat.”
“I do, it’s in the back.”
And without thinking, I started unwrapping Eryn and plopped her into the car seat. It wasn’t until I was doing up the safety harness that I thought, “Oh my God. She could drive off with my baby.”
But I trusted her completely. She wore a headscarf, recognized me as a fellow Muslim sister freezing outside with her baby, and decided to offer this stranger a ride. That seemed enough for me initially. But before I let go of Eryn, I made sure that I had one hand on the passenger door and visualized just how I was going to leap into the car if she started speeding off.
In the past, random strangers have offered me rides, lunch at their house, a Persian painting for free after I admired it, and even the shirt off their back when I asked where I could get one like it. In turn, I’ve cooked for strangers, given rides and bus fare, and even threw a baby shower for a woman I had known for less than 48 hours because she had just arrived in Canada, knew no one and had nothing for her baby (my friends also were amazing that they attended and bought baby-related stuff for a complete stranger they had never seen). Some were Muslim, some not.
The Muslim concept of “community” really emphasizes a global sister and brotherhood. What you expect and want for yourself is how you should treat and give to others. When in need, that Muslim woman across the street really is your sister, and the same kindness you give to her, you should be giving to all people. The idea that we care for each other, the earth, animals and all humanity is one of the reasons I love Islam.
So really, there was no experiential reason for me to worry. But I did anyway, just for a second. My mommy brain instinctually clicked into overdrive, assessed the situation and weighed the chances of ill-intent.
A two minute drive later I was unbuckling Eryn and the stranger was bidding me farewell and to, “keep her ears covered.”
And that was that. No name, no number and I doubt I’ll see her again. It was just such a nice, refreshing gesture. She wasn’t worried that I was going to reject her. In fact, there was something about her face and tone of voice that suggested she wouldn’t have taken “no” for an answer.
There’s a lot of doubt and suspicion these days, rightly so I suppose, but sometimes this hinders the very act of kindness. I wonder how many potential acts disappear just because a kind person is too afraid to offer. That they’ll just be turned down, or their kindness will be rejected.
What was your last act of kindness and how was it revived? Tell us in the comments!
This post originally appeared at wood turtle, where she shares experiences in Islamic feminism and modern motherhood.