From Recycling Bins to Reciprocation

My neighbor Amy stopped by to kindly let us know that we had possession of her recycling bin last night. It was a routine knock on the door, with the usual salutations and greetings. She was in her running shoes and looked like she had come back from a jog. We had never officially met, but Rehab (may Allah have mercy on her soul) had told me about her after our first campaign to get to know our neighbors. Together, we had packaged little cookie boxes and divided up the neighborhood between each of us and our husbands. I remember working with her on the little note that we attached to the box, she said she wanted it hand-written to make it more personal. In the end, I don’t think it was that one gesture that made our neighbors reach back out to us, but rather the (inshAllah) sincere intention that we had to fulfill our obligation towards our neighbors.

Since Rehab passed away I’ve been saying I want to reconnect with the Si family, Amy, the Lees, and the others who we hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting. But I’ve hesitated. I think it is because I didn’t want to have to explain to them how Rehab was doing, as the question was bound to come up. At any rate, there Amy was, standing at the doorstep, explaining how her recycling bin must have been mixed up with ours. She asked my husband how Rehab was doing, and he gently explained to her that Rehab had passed away, that she battled cancer for three years prior, and that everything was going to be alright. She apologized, and turned away in tears.

This moment reminded me of something I learned, but had forgotten in the months since she has been gone. Simply, to love for the sake of Allah. To surpass momentary anger at the person who changes lanes without a signal, to smile in the face of the stoic customer service employee taking their time to carry out my transaction, to truly and sincerely care for the state of my neighbors, and to give someone 70 excuses before placing blame on them. Ultimately, we are all children of Adam, brothers and sisters in humanity trying to figure this life out.

My recycling bin will be a constant reminder of this realization. Since Amy had left in a state of sadness, maybe I’ll take her some fresh basil and pay her a visit to make sure she is doing better. Hopefully, next time exchanging recycling bins won’t be our only form of reciprocation.

Dalal Kanan

Dalal is currently a 4th year PhD student in chemistry living in NJ who above all loves being mom to one gregarious toddler.

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