To my school’s MSA:
Every day during Ramadan, steps from my class, you serve iftaar. I appreciate that. Chicken tikka, goat biryani, fruit salad, pepsi. Thank you. Really.
BUT- Hosting iftaars is not just about plopping food infront of people, wiping your hands and smilelessly walking away.
This is my third year attending your iftaars. I still dont know any of you. When it comes time to open fast I walk over. I see you all talking in your small groups clustered backs turned to me in tight intimate conversations. I feel wrong intruding but it’s Ramadan, the season to not only feed hungry folks, and grow inner spirituality, but the season for community, that is the whole point of group iftaars isn’t it? So I try making conversation to which I invariably get a polite nod, an awkward smile, as you turn back to giggle about something I certainly am not privvy to. I feel like a highschooler with two pigtails, pink braces, thick blue rimmed glasses and a checkered skirt held up by suspenders approaching the cheerleaders with a wobbly lunch tray asking if they would please be my friend.
Am I too old? I’m not that much older than you guys. Are you intimidated by me? Its obvious I don’t bite.
Despite your lovely meals, the lack of warmth makes me feel like a vagrant at a flourescently lit soup kitchen rather than a member of your ummah, your sister.
And that is why you haven’t seen me recently. Instead of the warm biryani and the honey glazed chicken, you will find me sitting by myself in the dimly lit student lounge with my frozen meal and a vending machine soda. That is a particularly sad way to open fast when you, my fellow brothers and sisters, are just steps away.
I’m not trying to marry you. I’m not trying to become your bestest friend ever and add you to myspace to chat into the wee hours of the night. All I’m trying to do is get a bite to eat and see a warm smile that makes me feel a sense of brotherhood for a few minutes before I return to class.
Sometimes we get so caught up in the act. the ritual. we forget the spirit that should run like a current beneath it all. And the spirit behind the motions are perhaps as important, if not more so, than all the rituals combined.
Just a thought,