Day 8…it’s done! I was out of the house for the entire day…which meant having my head covered for a really long time. I have to say, it’s nice this time of year to be wearing a head covering…there’s no need for a scarf 🙂
Once again I found my self making assumptions…and you know how that turns out. It was a very quick and simple moment in my day, but still, it happened. I was driving into Pekin this afternoon, and there was a big truck in front of me…I had no actual thoughts about it, but my heart sunk into my stomach with that fiery heartburn feeling…you know what I’m talking about? Well, even though I didn’t actually have any thoughts to go along with that feeling, I know it was because I assumed whoever was driving that truck would be closed minded about my appearance…even though they were in front of me and they couldn’t even see me. Well, wouldn’t you know, as I got closer to the truck I realized that it had one of these bumper stickers on the tailgate…There I go again judging other people! I guess it’s going to take awhile for me to get through that barrier that I have, but know that I am trying.
As I left Pekin, I planned on stopping by Panera in East Peoria to pick up food on my way to a work meeting. As I entered the Panera parking lot I thought to myself, “I think one of the reasons I feel uncomfortable with being in Pekin is the possibility of seeing someone from high school. Not that I wouldn’t know what to say, or that I would personally care, but I wouldn’t want them to be super confused or make them feel awkward seeing the raging Evangelical girl from high school wearing hijab! As I got in line at Panera I glanced at the manager at the cash register…can you guess what happened next? Oh yeah, I thought to myself, “I’m pretty sure I went to high school with that girl”. But I couldn’t put a name with her face, or even place her more specifically in my life than “high school”, so I wasn’t really thinking that she would recognize me. Who was I kidding? After I placed my order she said, “You went to Pekin High School right?” Yes, yes I did. We had a little small talk and that was that. Hilarious.
Backing up to 9 o’clock this morning, I had the interview I mentioned yesterday with Liz Kulze of Vocative, an online news source. I usually dread talking on the phone, but this was actually kind of fun. It was very enjoyable talking to someone about my story that had never met me. I rehashed many things that she had already read in my blog, but wanted to hear from my mouth. But there are two things that I told her about that she found fascinating and that I want to share here.
The first is what my husband does for a living, besides being a full time seminary student. His sole purpose in his job for the last 3+ years has been to go to churches and talk with Christians about how to build bridges with Muslims…how cool is that? More recently he has become the Director of Student Training, which has entailed forming a new curriculum that better relates with younger generations, and to engage with college students across America helping them learn how to build relationships with and relate with Muslims in their communities. He loves it. And I love it! What a great job.
The second thing that she was very interested in was this…I told her a couple of stories about interactions that my husband Jeff and I have had with Muslims. I told her about a time when we were at the grocery store and we happened to see a Muslim woman in the same aisle that we were in. Jeff told me that I should go say hi to her, but I was nervous. I decided to just do it, and it turned out that her children went to the local Islamic school that I had just started working at! I was so glad that I had the courage to talk to her that day.
The second story was about my husband Jeff. He was in Colorado with his brother and they were riding public transportation. Standing across from him were two Arab men speaking in Arabic to one another. He noticed a man that felt uncomfortable next to them who chose to move to another area. Jeff took this opportunity to go and stand next to them, and proceeded to ask them, in Arabic, “Do you speak Arabic?”. (He likes to throw people off like that) He found out that the two young men were attending university there, that they were both from Saudi, but hadn’t known each other previously to moving to Colorado. One had been in the States for 6 months, and the other for 9 months. They told Jeff that he was the first American to ever speak to them. WHAT?!?!?!?! Jeff told them that unfortunately he was not the perfect guy to be talking to them because he didn’t even live there.
These two stories led me to talk about how interactions such as these can potentially change the way the world thinks about Christians, Christianity, and Jesus. I told her that the guy who was the theological inspiration for a fundamentalist Islamic political party had attended the University of Northern Colorado and at the opposite end of the spectrum Prince Ghazi of Jordan attended Princeton University and went on to write an open letter to Christians from Muslims entitled “A Common Word”. I often wonder how their experiences in the States differed from one another. Both of these men were simply students in a classroom and went on to become world changers.
I’ll leave you with this final thought…
Can you imagine how many lives could be changed if we just say hi to a Muslim at the grocery store, or on a train?