June 29 – St. Peter’s Episcopal Parish and Refugee Resettlement Office Interfaith Iftar
Iftar is the meal that Muslims observing Ramadan share together to end their daily fast. St. Peter’s has been invited to take part in an Iftar for RRO refugee families. Bring a (non-meat) dish to share.
I shred green and red leaves of lettuce
place them in a glass bowl,
sprinkle succulent red and orange nectarines on top,
cover the bowl with plastic wrap
and set a small set of silver tongs on top.
In the church basement a small group has gathered, shortly before 9, the sun almost set.
The metal doors are propped open onto the concrete patio.
It is a warm evening.
I place the bowl on the plastic table by baskets of dark brown samosas, a bowl of deep red soup,
salads, rice, cantaloupes, green melons, grapes and strawberries on a little plate,
frosted Safeway cookies.
Women and little girls in black and white, silver and gold scarves flutter into the room.
I shake hands, introduce myself to Azizi, a round faced man who is here with his family.
He is kind and friendly, answers my many questions about Ramadan –
Who fasts? How long? Is it difficult?
The answers roll off his tongue, he has been asked these questions many times.
He tells me that Ramadan is a fast for the mouth, ears and eyes. A purification time.
If you die during Ramadan you go straight to Paradise, he says.
I laugh, and say, Perhaps today would be a good day to die!
The young blond workers from the Refugee Resettlement Office
invite us to gather around the gray plastic tables.
Father Edmund expresses gratitude for the invitation to join the feast this night.
Azizi says a few words about Ramadan to the circle of brown, white, black and Asian faces
gathered close around the table laden with food.
We hear the call to prayer.
I am suddenly in Turkey, in Palestine,
hearing loudspeakers sing out the call over dusty hot streets.
Is there a mosque in this neighborhood? Did I not notice it?
No, it’s coming from somewhere here in the room.
I look around. A young girl turns off her cell phone.
The room is silent.
Now that we have heard the call, we can eat, Azizi says.
A young woman says, Let us let our Moslem friends go first, they haven’t eaten all day.
I remove the plastic wrap from the glass bowl,
pour the dark brown dressing over the salad,
place the silver tongs on top.
The guests fill their plates.
I see a young boy across the room. I smile. He smiles back.
I cross the room.
Hi, I’m Peter, I say.
What was that?
I hold out my hand, shake hands with Omar.
I pull up more folding chairs around the plastic tables. I sit by the boy.
Omar has just finished 6th grade. He likes basketball most of all.
He’d like to play baseball someday but he doesn’t understand the rules.
I tell him I never played basketball but I did play baseball once.
I ask him what the big sport is in Ethiopia. He says, Soccer. I say, I like soccer too.
I ask him what he is going to do this summer.
He tells me he might go to camp but he doesn’t want to go. I ask him why.
He says, I don’t like meeting new people.
I say, You are talking to me. I sat here because I didn’t know where to sit
and I smiled at you across the room and you smiled back.
I say, Maybe you are more social than you think you are.
I say, I bet you would make friends at camp. I think people would like spending time with you.
After dinner, I tell the workers from the Refugee Resettlement Office about meeting Omar,
his little brother and their mother. I tell them I would like to invite them to a baseball game.
I ask if that would be alright. I give my business card to the volunteer coordinator.
It is after 10 pm.
I go to say goodbye to Omar.
He looks up from his cell phone.
It was nice to meet you.
It was nice to meet you too.
Perhaps I will see you again.
I pick up the bowl on the table.
A small piece of orange nectarine, like a small ember,
a blessing and gift, rests on the side of the bowl.
It tastes of Paradise.
July 5, 2016