Apples are amazing! Yes, apples. You see, a few days ago, I had an extra one so I offered it to my office mate and was surprised by his response. “No thanks Nik, it’s Ramadan and I’m fasting for the month.”
Say what, HUH? The idea of fasting for an entire month not only had me craving a10-pack of crunchy tacos from Taco Bell, but it brought on a flood of questions that my co-worker kindly answered. I actually discovered a bit about what Ramadan, that mysterious holiday posted on my calendar every year, really means.
I was excited when my co-worker invited me to join him for a single day in observing Ramadan. I was totally up for the challenge, especially when I discovered that Ramadan is observed for ambitious reasons. Ramadan is a time to avoid frivolities. A time to give to charity, build stronger relationships within our families and communities and so much more. It’s also a time for prayer and to reflect upon oneself and strive for internal improvement. I could certainly use some of that!
Sure, I would need to give up a few things like food and beverages from dawn to dusk, YIKES. Water I could do without, but wine might be tough. I’d have to give up cursing. Uh oh! And trivial activities which to me meant pretty much everything in my life except work. Still, I could survive giving up my worldly desires for a mere 17 hours couldn’t I? Of course … maybe … hopefully?
I was advised by my co-worker that if I didn’t want to end up gnawing off my own leg by lunchtime, I should eat before my fast began at 3:50 a.m., when the sun would begin its accent into the earthly heavens. So with his blessing and good wishes, I set my alarm clock for 3:15 a.m. and with the utmost respect, I set upon my quest to observed Ramadan and discover what such sacrifice would mean to me.
The first thing I discovered was at 3:15 a.m. my ears don’t work very well. I slept through the alarm but managed to pop up at 3:37. That left me 13 minutes to scarf down whatever I could find to eat. Yup, the day was starting off with a bang! I traded in my normal breakfast for leftover chicken, rice and red beans, green beans, a banana, two cups of coffee, a guzzle of water and about three bites of mango before my fasting clock dinged. I admit, 17 hours without food sort of scared me but I was determined to succeed in this sacrifice. If that meant eating my daily allowance of food in one sitting, so be it.
Although I reached for my absent coffee mug and water bottle eight times per hour, my morning went well. I felt great until about one o’clock. It was downhill from there. By one-thirty, the candy bowl outside my office was calling my name and promising me things a candy bowl should never promise. By two, I could smell my co-workers lunches through concrete walls and by four-thirty, I was eyeballing an abandoned crumb on my office rug like it was Thanksgiving dinner. It was five minutes into my drive home that I started to reflect upon my life.
Surprisingly, I found myself speaking my gratitude out into the universe. I was overwhelmed with thankfulness. Appreciative that the hunger I was experiencing was a single sacrifice and not a way of life. I was feeling humbled by the fact that if I wanted to, I could pull over and buy something to eat while so many people in our world would be unable to feed their children tonight.
I managed to make it to sunset without a drop of food or water. I wish I could say I didn’t utter a single curse word but I cannot tell a lie. In my defense, I drive the Mass Pike every day so cut me some slack. When I took my first bite of food, I heard angels sing. Yet, I was also ashamed of my life of selfishness and my feelings of entitlement. Embarrassed that I take so many precious things for granted and I also felt determined to be a better person. Yup, lack of food can bring some serious clarity people and because of my small sacrifices I began to understand and appreciate Ramadan.
While I type these words with gratitude, a full belly and a half-full glass of wine, I feel changed. Mom always said if I want to know someone, I should walk a mile in their shoes but I think 17 hours should be the true test. I’m thankful for my wonderful co-worker who shared a bit of himself with me in true Ramadan style. The respect I feel in knowing that he fasts for an entire month and still has a smile for everyone, is immeasurable. Lastly, I am thankful for apples. Yes, apples! They secretly hold life’s lessons within their thin, crunchy skins. Offer one to someone today and see what happens. Your world just might change a little.
Peace and Light, Nik