Heard at the Coffee Shop

I was in line at the coffee shop on August 1st when a young woman appeared beside me who was evidently known to the store manager. 

“How’s it goin’?” asked her pal behind the counter.

“Great! Hey, did you know that I’m fasting?”

“Fasting, no.  Why on earth are you fasting?”

“Ramadan began yesterday. “And my boyfriend, he’s a Muslim. So I just thought, whydon’t I fast too and see what happens. Inside my mind, you know. Inside ME.”

Well now! I thought.  

Maybe this is how minds are opened, one person at a time, who admittedly is just sticking a toe in the great river of Islamic thought – of a new spiritual belief – but isn’t that the way we all begin swimming? By sticking a toe in?  

I overheard this conversation on August 1st and the next day  saw this picture with the women looking so lovely in their pale sherbet-colored garments.

The caption says they are  “Indonesian women, performing  the evening prayer called tarawih, the night before the holy fasting month of Ramadan begins.’” It was taken at the Istiqlal mosque in Jakarta.

Now, today, with the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, Muslims mark the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan and I was thinking: Our cities and towns all suspend school for Christian holy days, and many do the same for the Jewish High Holidays. Maybe one day we’ll do the same for Eid.

The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp for both of the Eid holy days  ten whole years ago, under President George W. Bush, so can other kinds of official recognition be far behind?  That’s where the real strength of this country lies, remember. It lies in our ability to welcome new people, and embrace them and learn from their ways.

It’s a good reminder: whether August 31st is Eid or the anniversary of the day your father died, or the day you got sober or the day your firstborn landed in the world, every day is sacred to someone. ‘Put thy sandals from off thy feet for the place where thou art  standing is holy ground.’   That’s Yahweh to our pal Moses.

Holy ground, this earth. Holy people, us, when we try to be.


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