As we head into the Holidays, focusing on thankfulness, peace, and joy, my thoughts go back to past times and friends.
My wife Angeline and I have rented out rooms throughout our marriage to a colorful array of people with different languages and cultures. We’ve had, mostly, good fortune picking positive & upbeat renters.
We think of our kitchen as sort of an “energy vortex.” Periodically we end up there, sharing a meal or just hanging out and talking with housemates.
Once in a while, Angeline or I will develop a deeper than-usual attachment to one of the people we’re sharing our home with. I am going to talk about a housemate I came to deeply appreciate and the things I learned through my association with him.
The Bedouins are a nomadic Arab tribespeople, whose wealth was often reflected by the number of camels they owned. I know because a Bedouin lived in our home for a time. His name was Yami and we called him “Sweet Potato.” He taught me to cook what has become my favorite traditional Bedouin dish.
Yami was a devout Muslim and a lovely free spirit in the world. As our friendship developed, I witnessed the sincerity of his devotion to God. Five times a day, wherever he was, he took out and properly positioned his prayer rug toward Mecca and quietly performed the ancient ritual of Islamic prayer. I was with him at times when he prayed. It was beautiful to share those moments with him.
Trying not to disturb him, I would find a place to sit, close by, in the car, or under a tree perhaps, and began praying myself. Each in our own way, a Muslim and a Christian, quietly praying together. It was during those times Yami taught me the traditional Arabic Islamic greeting As-salamu Alaykum, “May peace be unto you.”
I joined Yami, for a few days of fasting during Ramadan. As tradition dictates, we would break our fast after sunset, and go together to a nearby Mosque to join with Muslim men celebrating Ramadan and share the traditional evening meal ending the fast. My time with my friend Yami, those experiences, have become some of the most precious memories of my life.
My experience with Yami was a reminder, that in a world that can feel hopeless and dark at times, we can find a reason to cross the divides that separate us. In spite of our differences, I came to deeply value and appreciate my friendship with Yami.
I understand how the embrace of Islam and Christianity, by billions of people subject to fear and misunderstanding, could set the stage for a collision of cultures. Yami and I managed to avoid whatever collision there may have been between us and develop a wonderful, and I expect lifelong friendship. There is much more I could say about my friendship and love for this man.
I'd like this to be a message of hope. That we take time to celebrate our opportunities, each day, to make the world a better place. When we make choices that reflect our generosity of heart, our intention to promote peace and understanding, when we say and do things that contribute to the fabric of love and goodwill that exist in the world, the world is a better place for it.
This is my wish and prayer for today and all other days. That, as God’s children, we choose to celebrate peace, love, and tolerance always.
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