During the last several months, I discovered the importance of “my time” during my work day. I have an hour lunch break and while some people would choose to socialize during this time, I have begun going out by myself for fresh air, coffee, and sometimes shopping. It has become a precious gift of solo time that I savor. If I need to run some errands then that’s what I do, but if I get an opportunity to reflect during this time, it’s even better.
One day recently during one of these breaks I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop, watching the news while sitting next to a man and a woman about to enjoy a soup lunch. The man began stirring and exclaimed suddenly about the soup: He can’t eat it; something about not expecting it in potato soup; clam chowder maybe, but not potato soup. I immediately wondered if he was talking about bacon. The woman began eating the potato soup and joked about how good it was. He got up and mumbled about how he would just get chicken noodle and headed back to the café kitchen carrying the potato soup.
When he returned he was pleased with the easy exchange the kitchen staff allowed. The woman asked him, “So what would happen if you ate it?” The man replied, “Well it’s not like a lightning bolt is going to strike me down.” He went on mentioning guidelines about dairy and meat on the same plate and then went on to say, “I’m not kosher or anything….but I won’t eat pork.”
He glanced my way once during his explanation, a heavy, meaningful glance. I’m not sure what the glance was entirely about. Perhaps he was thinking, “She certainly knows what I’m talking about. She understands.”
I couldn’t help but smile to myself. We do have things in common. I know how it feels to avoid pork at restaurants and what it feels like to unexpectedly find it on my plate. Perhaps it seems like a rather trivial incident but that day I sat alone and reflected on the bonds of similarities we do share with Jewish people.
I later described the incident to my children and they found it rather interesting. None of their friends or neighbours are Jewish and so the story was a bit eye-opening. I think they were somewhat amused because they realized it’s not just Muslims who do not eat pork; there are others who because of their faith run into dietary complications at restaurants. They especially liked the man’s “lightning bolt” comment!
It may be subtle but I think this story imparted an important message to my children: People of other faiths practice their beliefs, even when it goes against the mainstream. They as Muslims are not alone in refraining from certain foods for reasons of God-consciousness. I hope my children internalized a sense of commonality that we share with other faiths. Alhamdulillah, it was a valuable lesson in the end for all of us, one we will likely remember the next time we ask the waiter, “What’s in the soup?”
Mayce Ibraheem lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband and two sons.