These pillars of the Muslim community back home are known for their big hearts, their good deeds, and their fair and balanced views. They are called upon to celebrate happy occasions and to settle disputes. They are called upon to welcome new lives and to make preparations for and bid farewell to the deceased. They are called upon to host gargantuan events, international parties, and even entire families. Intelligent, charming, and able to be at ease with bigwigs and beggars. Generous to a fault, they rarely turn down a plea for help (financial or otherwise) and if they must deny someone, they do so with a heavy heart. They work hard for their community and build bridges to other communities. They build schools. They build mosques. But above all, they build character – mine, anyway.
I can’t remember a single thing I ever wanted or needed that they didn’t give me. They gave me unquestioning love, confidence, and a sense of pride that was so ingrained that I never felt out of place or lesser or unwanted in any group or situation (I’m looking at you, high school). They encouraged my quirky sense of humor. They taught me how to live in this modern world while still upholding traditional values. They gave me the freedom to leave and the knowledge that I could always return to them, rely on them, take whatever I need from them without hesitation or question. I don’t think they’ve squandered a minute of their lives and their sense of duty to their fellow human beings staggers me. I am full of pettiness, grudges, and inexcusable cantankerousness. They are full of peace, forgiveness, and patience. I aspire to be as thoughtful, generous, and kind-hearted as they have been with me and every person whose life they touch.