These days it seems we can’t get away from the news. We are bombarded with stories about tragedy, political debates and anger. In reality, this should be a time when we talk about the good we do for one another and the similarities between us.
That is why, this holiday season I ask that we make an effort to show our love for one another, no matter who the other person may be. When it comes down to it we are all one. One planet, one tribe, one family.
At present, our nation is in a divided state. We are being torn in different directions and different sides, but we need not be. We should be focused on what unites us. On the news and online, we are hearing messages from some who have microphones, that we should be afraid of others, especially those of a different faith and belief. We must not fall into this trap of fear. If we take the time to learn about each other, we will find that much of the words and threats that are being used to divide us are not true. Life has it’s challenges for everyone and we can help make those challenges less difficult by showing our love and compassion for one another.
For example, right now people are taking about how a whole culture of Muslims, or the whole religion of Islam is to be feared. I must say, this is not true. I know that I may not be a Muslim or a devote of Islam, but I know many people who are. I feel fortunate in many ways that I had the opportunity to live in Morocco, a Muslim country while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer because it gave me an advantage of perspective. While there, I met amazing men, women, elders and children who embraced me as an outsider, as an American woman.
As a young woman in this foreign country, living alone in a rural village, on many occasions my Moroccan family, who happened to practice Islam, took me in. They provided meals for me, hugged me when I missed my family or came upon a tough time and stood up for me to others when I needed them. It would have been easy if we let what divided us to have prevented this amazing opportunity for us to forge new friendships.
What my “Islam” family has given me:
- My host family took me in from day one. They provided me meals, gave me a room to myself and included me in family celebrations, even when at first I did not speak their language or dressed in a similar fashion.
- When I was bit by a dog, my host mother did all she could to help care for my wound and even went to the family who owned the dog to stand up for me.
- My mom came to visit me and my host family made us an amazing meal, hugged her and showed her all the same generosity that they showed me.
- The children in my village took me by their hand to show me around the village, their school and their homes. They helped me learn new words in their language and would bring me pictures that they created.
- I was invited to many wedding celebrations, even of families who I did not know well.
- When I was ill, too ill to walk, my family went into town to get my medicine so that I could heal.
- When I traveled around the country with my fellow Moroccans, I was shown hospitality like I had never seen before. People, whom I had never met, allowed me to stay in their homes, eat their food and enjoy their company when I had little to offer in return.
- Women and men shared stories with me of courage, dreams, loss, challenges and love for my documentary on rural female leaders.
These moments, and so many more like them have me standing up to the political retoric and scare tactics that are being spewed. I love my Moroccan family, my Muslim family, my Islamic family. They are in a very fundamental way, no different from you and I. They love others, dream of a better life, are sad by tragedy and come together in times of need to support each other.
So please, let’s take some time this holiday season to reflect on what we all have in common. Let’s show more compassion to those in our community and welcome more people into that community. We all have struggles and we all have the desire to want to feel welcome, loved and cared for.
To see stories of some amazing Moroccan women from the rural parts of Morocco talk about how they are making changes to improve their lives, their families lives and the future of their country than I welcome you to view this short film I put together with my Moroccan friends.