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Treating Others How You Want to Be Treated

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By Sheikh Musa Drammeh

Last year while I was leisurely outing in San Francisco during a business trip, I stopped by for tea at an Arab deli store that has a food court inside.  While waiting for my tea, an African American homeless man walked in, went directly to the garbage bin and retrieved the leftover food.  Upon seeing this, the owner loudly called out and demanded the guy to drop the food back in.  Naturally the guy refused.  He forcefully asked him again to drop the food, go to the bathroom and wash his hands, because he is preparing a fresh meal for him.  The guy complied.  He dropped the food and proceeded to the bathroom to wash his hands.  Upon emerging out of the bathroom he saw his meal was already prepared and placed on the table as if he was a paying customer. 

Witnessing such a humanitarian gesture, I asked the homeless man if I could join him at his table to which he happily said “of course.”  We had a long conversation about his condition and how he felt about the surprise treatment he received from the deli.  His exact words to me were “they are Muslims who sell only Halal food and I don’t pick food stuff from non Halal restaurants.”  I asked if he has been in the deli before he said never.  So even though I was a stranger in the city, I was able to make a helpful social services agency connection for him and a small donation.  

When he left, I asked the deli guy why he did what he did.  Not knowing I was Muslim, he said his religion dictates for him to feed the poor with the same food his family would eat.  I immediately recited the verse he was referring to (Holy Quran 2:267), he rushed out of the counter and hugged me for a long time and begged me to eat with him. I said to him you’ve fed two of us when you graciously fed the homeless man, but thank you for the offer.  We took pictures together, talked about Islam, Muslim Etiquette, and the historical relations between Yemen and Africa, among others.  I fought back tears, but couldn’t when I came out.  

I knew then the overwhelming majority of these small business owners do care about their religious and neighborly responsibilities. They do care. They do provide more than financial transactions. They do see themselves in the least of thee. They are unsung heroes. And the more you get to know them intimately, the more you appreciate them. I say thank you for treating the poor who walk in to your establishments with dignity that they deserve. Thank you for doing it without fanfare.  Thank you!

To hear this and similar stories, please join your Arab American neighbors at their monthly Community Peace Dinners at Al Shaibi Community Center on Westchester Avenue in the Bronx. The dinner takes place on first Friday of each month, 6:00-8:00 PM. It’s open to the public but seating is limited. Call 718-822-5555 to RSVP. Thank you!

In the photos are members of the South Yemeni Al Shaibi Community Center attending the first annual Yemeni American Merchants Association (YAMA). Picture Credit: Parkchester Times

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