The First Glance
It occurred to me today as I waited for my son’s gymnastics lesson to finish, standing inconsequential among many other parents of various sizes and ages, how many people I’ve never met and may never really know. These people and I share a few moments of time, our paths momentarily cross, in the grocery store walking down the bread aisle, or waiting in the checkout line. At first glance, I see their hair, their clothing, their posture, whatever, and right away I create a framework of assumptions. I classify them in my mind without realizing that I’m doing it. Mostly it’s a blur, I don’t even pay attention to it anymore, all wrapped up in my own worries and thoughts. But sometimes, I come upon an individual that sits outside my general assumptions, and curiosity requires a second glance for further examination.
How many ways my second glance could be misconstrued? The recipient could feel measured and thus analyzed become defensive and rude. Or do as I do, and immediately review a personal list of flaws, wondering which fault elicited a second glance from a stranger. Sometimes, I’m surprised by a third, unexpected reaction, when the individual acknowledges the glance with an open, heart-felt smile. The pull of that genuine smile flows into my heart and, involuntarily, I find myself smiling, too. And for a moment, everything is good.
This all means something to me, because, literally I am that individual that sits outside of the common. I am the recipient of many second glances and I do my best to meet that natural curiosity with an open, heart-felt smile. I was born in America and I feel like America is mine, not only because I was born here, but because I have lived here for so long. I have always walked on America’s soil, fully confident that I belong here. I have never been a conformist, but neither have I demanded conformity from others. I love all creation and step through my world assuming the best of everyone I meet. My most powerful gift is a readiness to share my smile, a sincere wish for the happiness of all human beings, and an overwhelming drive to exercise intellect and spirit.
My Dress, My Choice
I am so comfortable with my journey that I falter, baffled when I rub up against open hostility, particularly a hostility inspired not by my actions, nor by my words, but merely as a result of my attire. You see, I am a Muslim and I’ve chosen to wear a head covering. As a young girl, I always felt drawn to beloved Mary, the mother of Jesus. Her purity and sweetness protected beneath flowing robes. Her head covering represented the peak of piety. For me to accept the head covering felt entirely natural and an extension of the deep love and respect I always felt for her. I find it ironic that a society that claims to love her, fails to see the beauty of her attire.
I do understand though. There are some who allege to be Muslim who have by their actions tainted the reflection of my selected faith. But they are not me and I am not them. I would hope to be judged by my own actions and interactions. I am a mother, a daughter, an aunt, a sister, a friend. I want the best for my children and for all children of this world. Regardless of faith, we are all human beings. So, when you take that second look and are met with the warmth of my smile, smile back and know that all is good.