I’ve been blessed with one of the most welcoming and spiritually enhancing communities at the Islamic Center of NYU. You don’t have to be afraid that people won’t accept you over there. All you have to do is be yourself. And it’s because of this center and one of the nicest Imams ever, Khalid Latif, that I found my way to the second thing that has allowed me to begin figuring the world out.
The Bridges trip to Joplin, Missouri allowed me to open up. It was my first interfaith experience and I went into it with mixed feelings especially because of the mounting tension between Israel and Palestine. The world’s eyes were glued to the situation (and of course the rest of the growing problems across the globe). Arguments were erupting across the world. I was lost.
And then in the very first few moments of this trip I met people Jewish students. And right from those moments, I knew the friendships and fun I would have throughout the trip would be everlasting. There was no tension. There was no awkwardness. There was just friendship. There was just love. There was just service.
We worked throughout the week at our respective homes trying to make as much of a difference as possible. Of course we weren’t able to build full houses, but we all collectively left our marks on the houses we worked on, and more importantly on the people we worked with. Not only was the NYU Jewish community so open and welcoming, so was the Joplin community. I’ve never met nicer, and more fun-loving people. These were amazing people.
So throughout the one week we spent at Joplin we worked, we toured, bowled, talked and talked and talked, danced, and bonded. We met people that went through things some of us could never imagine happening to us. We left those experiences smiling and willing to help others. The people we met within our own group and outside of it were just amazing, and made the experience many times better.
We worked with the nicest and most benevolent people from ICNA relief as well. These people, Steve and Abdur, made us all aspire to be like them in their hard work and skills as well as of course, the whole volunteer and manage the community of Rebuild Joplin.
In the end, though, the thing that left the biggest impact on me was Shabbat. It was one of the most beautiful experiences I had ever experienced from the moment it began to the very ending where we all stood in a circle and sang! It was a beautiful night, only illuminated by a candle and our enlightened souls.
Spending a week with other Muslims and Jewish friends those that had gone through a life-times worth of suffering, and benevolent people that we all looked up to was eye-opening. I don’t want to say I’ve become a better person just like that. Of course not. I’m just further down that path to learning who I am. To becoming that benevolent person that those people in Joplin were. To becoming a person that brings peace and calm to the problems across the world, that person I want to be. One step closer.