There was not a whole lot to worry about. It was only a category 3 hurricane and was already dying out in the Gulf. But it picked up speed, shifted course, and headed straight for the city. Both hell and the levees seemed to break loose at the same time.
I was a senior in high school and decided to go to New Orleans with a Christian group, and two other Muslims, one of them an Imam. It was a long drive. Upon arrival, we were told that we Muslims were to spend the night with the Pastor, in his home.
I was not sure what to expect, but we were welcomed in with warm hospitality. We were each given a room to ourselves, with unusually comfortable beds. I was tired and was knocked out upon touching my head to the pillow. I woke up several hours later to the chatter around the dinner table. I sat down, and the pastor’s wife served us green bean casserole that was creamy on the inside, golden brown and crunchy on the top, and so delicious. I had more than one helping.
Over dinner, I remember thinking to myself that it was such a strange sight. The imam was cracking jokes, at which this pastor was laughing. The scene for me, at the time, was almost a bit surreal.
After the casserole, the pastor’s wife brought out a made from scratch key lime pie, which left me a bit at a loss for words. It was made with sweetened condensed milk, which gave made it creamy and it was sweet and dense in the center. On top was a meringue-like whipped frosting.
The next morning we woke up rather early, packed our water, and made way for the church, where we were going to meet the rest of the work crew. The sun was just beginning to dry out the mist of a humid Louisiana night.The serenity of dawn quickly gave way to the sounds of chainsaws and of reconstruction. There was much work to be done.
We entered the church and were greeted with, “Good mornin’ y’all! Would y’all like some grits?” The church people had gotten there early and had prepared a breakfast, the aromas of which could be smelled well into the parking lot. Almost every type of down–south-lick-your-fingers-after scrambled eggs and hash browns and grits with butter and grits with cinnamon sugar and orange juice and milk and coffee and bacon was set out before us on the table.
“Help yourselves to breakfast!” they said.
Yet what caught my eye was that next to the bacon they set out turkey bacon for the Muslims. It was such a simple gesture, yet it meant so much. We could have very easily chosen not to eat any bacon, but they took the extra step to make sure we were comfortable.
The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said, “I have come only to perfect good character.”
Growing up, I was always the only Muslim in my school, and so my friends were always of a different faith. Yet in Louisiana, I came to realize for the first time how we can truly work together. My couple of days with our Christian friends down south allowed me to experience the good character of a different people in a different sense. They were so thankful that we had traveled so long to help out, and nothing else really mattered. There was so much work to be done, and our interactions reflected this notion. There was no time for segregation of any sort, racial, ethnic, religious… Our only preoccupations were those without water, without homes, those in need.
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