“..forgive the inexcusable in others because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
You’re fasting. You couldn’t bring yourself to wake up last night for suhoor. Your body is fuming at you depriving it of its usual morning caffeine and afternoon nicotine. Your brain’s fists are pounding against your skull in protest of your lack of sleep. Your coworkers/classmates have awful morning breath, and you do not want to directly speak to them. The radio hasn’t been playing your favorite songs that usually wake you up in the morning. Your significant other is most likely just as grumpy as you are, so you have stopped hoping for a flirty text from them to brighten up your day. Worst of all, it’s July. It’s July…and you’re fasting…in Kuwait.
What feels like an excruciatingly long day is cut short due to a change in timings around 3 PM; the walk from your office/university building to your car boils your brain cells and leaves you swimming in your sweat, panting like a dog desperate for one single lick of water. Your car doesn’t provide you with the shelter you were hoping for either; you suddenly hate your fancy leather seats as it sets your body on fire. To say that you experienced road rage on your drive back home would be a grave understatement.
We all witness – and commit – enormous acts of both kindness and cruelty on a daily basis; whether the ratio of one exceeds the other is a debate that both philosophers and anthropologists have attempted to tackle since the first time that mankind began to mull over morality. Definitions of good and evil being relative is one common ground that most, but still not all, seem to agree on. How we react to certain incidents that we witness reflects our understanding of those two concepts.
Being good is supposedly fairly straightforward. You shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not lie, you shall not cheat. These, naturally, are rules that end up playing into what we perceive to be the trivial affairs of our daily lives. So you can’t kill your husband for leaving his socks on the floor, and you can’t kill your wife for telling you to pick them up while you’re watching the game. You can’t steal the wonderfully beautiful but awfully expensive dress/watch you’ve been eyeing during your usual window-shopping. You can’t – or at least, you shouldn’t – lie about the progress of your work when you’ve let procrastination get to you once more. And you most certainly don’t cheat, especially since it usually involves someone else who has put his or her trust in you; a customer, a partner, a teacher, a professor, or a boss.
In a utopian world, we would all be ‘good’; technically, the only time this was ever a ‘reality’ was back when the first humans were made, and were yet to set foot on Earth. They were pure, unadulterated, and did not pose the same capacity to inflict harm that today’s Earth-born men and women do. Based on that story, human beings are inherently prone to sin. Greed, lust, pride, anger, ego, and the rest of the emotions on the psychological tornado of our selfhood trigger cruel acts. This, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that the human race is doomed to a never-ending cycle consisting of lifetimes of torture and oppression of his fellow brothers and sisters (though history could strongly support this argument). It can also mean that being a witness to cruelty will give a human being strong incentive to combat it by doing good.
At one point in my life, I believed that I should only help the people who would reciprocate the act in the future, or have done so in the past. This was because I was convinced that it was not ‘safe’ to help those I did not fully trust; they would take advantage of me, or worse, think that I was weak. As a result, this circle of aid, conceptually, was narrowed down to people I knew and regularly interacted with. Practically, however, it meant that I rarely offered a helping hand, and was a lot less likely to receive help – and I most certainly needed it. I simply did not realize that I had to give in order to get. I call this the Scrooge stage, because it took a Tiny Tim to transform the mindset that I had been locked in.
I started volunteering at the AlKharafi Autism Center for Children, and on my very first day, witnessed an incident that turned me inside out, and had such a significant impact on me that I could almost feel the exorcism of Scrooge’s spirit taking place in my own chest. During a musical segment, one of the supervisors sat at a piano and began to play; the children reacted enthusiastically, possessed by the beats they were listening to. All at once, they rushed to the stage in the middle of the auditorium, eager to show off their dance moves and get their groove on. Amidst the sudden stampede, a long, shrill cry of frustration rang, coming from the only girl in a wheelchair. She banged her fists against the confines of her wheelchair, angry at the metal jail that prevented her from joining the other boys and girls and participating in the childish activities she longed for.
Most of the children in that room did not take notice, but one boy did. He screeched to a halt as abruptly as her cries had filled the auditorium, and turned around, rushing towards her. He stood behind her wheelchair, pushed her up to the stage with the rest of the children, and then resumed his oblivious dancing. I soon learned that he was eight years old and suffered from severe autism; during the year that I spent there, I never heard him speak. He was energetic and fun and exceptionally social, but could not communicate with words. The girl he had helped was around twelve years old, and also suffered from a form of autism that was not as severe as Bader’s. This meant that they could never form the type of bond that friendships are usually based on, where conversations are held or activities are shared; one had a speech impediment, and the other had a physical impairment.
If a child who was mentally challenged could help another child in need without thinking twice of it and without waiting for a thank you or an acknowledgment of his heroism, what excuse do the rest of us have? It is important for us to make more of a conscious effort to do good, not in spite of, but especially during times when we don’t feel good. It is during those days that your actions will make double the difference, for both the person you have helped and yourself. More often than not, what we need on our bad days is simply a reminder of our ability to make someone else’s existence a little better solely based on your own.
You will certainly be thirsty, hungry, itching for a cigarette, sleep-deprived, romance-deprived, and hot this Ramadan. Nonetheless, do your very best to be kind to others; it is pointless to fast if all it does is impact your stomach and not your behavior. This month can be an opportunity for you to be more consistent with your kindness, your prayers and reflection, and, who knows, maybe even quit smoking. Count your blessings. Remember that there are others around the world who are fasting and breaking their fast without shelter, without warm food, without clean water; others still who do so with the sound of bombings and bullets right outside their window – Syria. Pray for them, and be thankful for your own blessings.