Our own stories

Demi posted something in comments that I really liked. Because it was so lengthy, and many respects quite independent of the original post, I asked her permission to move into the main area of the site. Here it is:

I have been indulging in the same finger-pointing: at the president, at Rumsfeld, at any number of persons and entities. And it’s true, they are at fault. But I cannot shake the feeling that I am at fault as well, as is every individual that is part of a culture. Individuals comprise the culture, whether that culture gives rise to an Abu Graib or a beheading. In that sense, we are all guilty and somehow complicit in all of those actions (on whichever side).

I’m having trouble handling the day-to-day stuff also. The news just gets worse and worse. Maybe an interfaith, Internet prayer chain of some sort would help?

Now for some good news.

Just a month or so after 9/11, I volunteered to sit in a call center during “The Concert for New York.” We had a brief training session first and all the volunteers gathered together.

Amazingly (now this was courage), there were two Muslim women volunteering also: one in hijab, one not (but I’m pretty sure they were mother and daughter.) It was the younger woman wearing hijab (actually just the head scarf, but I forgot what that’s called).

At first I admit that I had an almost involuntary reaction at seeing that symbol while the WTC was still smoldering. I couldn’t help it. Then I thought about why this young woman was where she was in that call center, and I thought: “Dear LORD that took courage. She wants to help… perhaps also she wants to be a witness to her faith to “incarnate” the message that not “every Muslim is a terrorist,” etc, etc. In any case, people were avoiding her. When we walked to our stations I found myself walking next to her. I had a US-flag motif scarf around my neck (in those days, everyone was wearing flag motifs, red/white/blue outfits, etc). She turned and smiled at me, and said, “hey… I like your scarf.”

I took a deep breath, said a prayer, and answered her, “I like yours, too.” We looked at each other a moment, and we both smiled. Immediately I felt released. **I** felt released. I imagine she did too. Then we went to our stations and started taking phone calls.

I think she did more for the cause of peace by wearing her scarf than I did by wearing mine. It had to have been difficult.

Then there was another story that came out of the same place (it was a bank, very large, lots of branches all over). One of our workers had been in the WTC when it was hit. She is married and has 3 small children. She was in NYC on a short-term training session, giving instruction to the workers in the WTC branch of our bank. She told her story, about how a young man she hardly knew was the one who saved her. He kept pushing her out, and at one point carried her (and she wasn’t a small person). Down, down, down those steps. She only knew his first name, which was an Anglicized name. After they made it out, and she got back home, she found out who he was. He was an American Muslim.

That is *not* an urban legend. It happened at the WTC branch of the former First Union, and was published on the corporate intranet not long after it happened. I have a hard copy of the story somewhere in storage. But it really did happen. It is not a legend. Neither is the first story: that happened to me firsthand. I was the woman in the US flag scarf.

I think right now it is important to tell these stories, too. There is too much negative energy in the world right now. We need to remember that in all religions and cultures there are good people…even the “bad” people are good people in bad circumstances. Perhaps if I were put to that kind of test, I would react similiarly. I don’t know. So we pray “subject us not to the trial” (“lead us not into temptation”). But the trials and tests do come, and sometimes we don’t respond well to them.

But there are good people in the world… I am posting these two stories so that I can remember, and others can hear, too.

Perhaps an internet, interfaith prayer chain would “release” us all from at least some of the sadness and tragedy we hear so much of right now.

And I would be honored to pray with you, Islamicate.

One thought on “Our own stories

  1. I’ve mentioned before that I’m from New York, and spent much of childhood around the WTC. The buildings opened the same year I was born; I can’t imagine NY without them. I was in Boston on 9/11; my brother lived about a 1/2 mile from Ground Zero. He was volunteering the next day. He is not white, and he has a name instantly recognizable as being that of a Muslim. People didn’t care, they came together in tragedy. The farther away you get from that point, the more it’s about revenge, and less about anger and justice.

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