Full Circle

I was 12 when I started my first job. It involved selling popcorn and cokes on a Saturday at the football stadium in Winnipeg. I was excited about the opportunity as I could make some money and also watch the Blue Bombers play.

My job involved carrying around a tray of soft drinks to sell to people watching the game in the stands. When I was almost finished one tray, I asked some of the other kids if I could leave a few of my drinks with them while I got another tray. I only did this because I saw the other young people doing the same thing to maximize their opportunity to make more sales early in the game.

When I came back to get the drinks I’d left, the other kids pretended that they didn’t know what I was talking about so that they could sell these drinks without having to cover any of the costs. When my father picked me up after the game, I had to tell him that I’d made no money as I had to pay the stadium back for the drinks that I’d lost. I’d worked for hours with nothing to show for it. My dad never let me work there again, so my first job only lasted one day.

When I was growing up, I was naïve and overly trusting, but experiences such as the football stadium job helped toughen me up so that I could protect myself from those who might try to take advantage of me in the future. It’s easy to take this toughness too far, though, and become cynical and distrustful of others. Now that I’m in my mid 40s, I’m finding that I need to allow myself to be more vulnerable and trusting of others, as this is a healthier and more fulfilling way to live. Yes, I will be taken advantage of at times and likely hurt by others, but it’s better to assume that people are good and generous than to expect the worse of them.

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Ramadan

With Ramadan starting tomorrow, I’m remembering the many ways in which my Muslim friends have demonstrated the importance of charity and generosity.

Before we bought our house, R and I (and also K) lived for a few years in an apartment in Thorncliffe Park, which is a heavily populated and multicultural community in Toronto. The majority of our neighbours had recently arrived in Canada from Pakistan and Afghanistan. Given that the building’s residents were predominantly Muslim, Ramadan took on a particular significance for us each year while we lived there.

One of my favourite things about Ramadan was the importance of sharing with others. During our first year, we heard a knock at our door one evening and opened it to find a girl standing there with a plate of food. She handed it to us and then ran on back to her apartment. We later learned that sharing food like this was a common custom, and that we could repay the kindness by sharing some of our food (or even treats) when we returned their plate to them. After researching how to prepare food and desserts that would be halal, we started to share food from time to time with many of our neighbours. This then led to some deeper friendships and invitations to meals in their homes.

With all the misconceptions that often circulate about the Islamic faith, I’m grateful that I could witness firsthand the kindness and generosity of my Muslim neighbours. For all who may be celebrating Ramadan, I hope this is a wonderful opportunity for inner reflection and acts of charity.

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