Do you volunteer?
Do you send in snacks?
Do you buy from the school fundraiser?
Do you offer help?
I’m not talking about giving money to panhandlers, but truly giving of yourself. Your time. Sometimes your money.
I’ve noticed that the concept of giving is different for people of different economic status, different religions, and different cultural backgrounds.
When I joined the Muslim community, I noticed that people didn’t volunteer much. I would hear people say that if they weren’t getting paid, they wouldn’t participate. For a very long time, I felt conflicted about this statement.
Yes, my time is worth money.
No, I don’t work for free.
But yes, I can give of my time in ways that pays back in non-monetary ways.
Ways that enrich my life.
Feed my soul.
Create ties and make ourselves visible.
Even though I wasn’t active in church growing up, I did have a period of time in my 20s where I was a regular church goer. I belonged. I was important. I was a valuable part of the church family and I contributed of my time more than anything else. I helped cook and serve at spaghetti dinners, I painted scenery for nativity plays, I unloaded boxes and sorted clothing for donations.
I missed that in my Muslim community.
For the first time in my almost 20 years of parallel membership, I was able to volunteer at an event at our Little Mosque Down the Street™. It was amazing. I felt necessary. I felt like this was my place too, and I was no longer a guest that was tolerated. I noticed though, that people were really surprised that I wanted to be there.
I have asked to participate in other events. I have ideas. I am encouraging my children to speak up and show up. I want to be involved so they feel comfortable being involved.
Each year at Eid al Adha, the main part of the holiday observance is the slaughter of the lamb and the giving of the meat. You are meant to feed others. You are meant to do an act of charity.
For the past few years, we have been blessed with the ability to perform the udhaya (slaughter) and then complete the butchering at our home and donate 1/3 of the meat through our mosque. This year, we were not able to perform the udhaya ourselves, so we contributed to a community slaughter.
I wanted to make sure that even though we were unable to perform that specific act of charity, we participated in some other act of giving. I didn’t want to lose that essential part of the Eid. We needed to give, and give freely.
The general, loose guideline of giving zakat (charity) is that it should be in the amount equivalent to what you would spend on lunch for yourself at a restaurant. We chose Chipotle. Each one of our children agreed on the restaurant. They tallied their usual order and came to agree upon a figure.
Then we went to the grocery store. I talked to them about feeding families who need healthy food options. They soon figured out that they could get more food when they bought a box of pancake mix or a bag of rice than they did if they bought a box of cookies. In the end, each one of our children filled their shopping totes with ingredients to make several meals, equivalent to one meal at Chipotle.
On the day of the Eid, we drove to our local food pantry and donated that food to help feed the many families in our city who need extra help.
When I began this blog, I did so because I didn’t know any women who had relationships like mine. I searched for interfaith marriages and found a lot of resources on Jewish & Christian families, but nothing like my own. When I searched for support on being married to a Muslim man, I found resources on conversion. How to get away from him. How to convert him to Christianity. How it was awful.
I began talking about my life as an act of charity. Reaching out to you so that you know you are not alone out there. You can be in love with a Muslim partner and be happy. Its possible.
I voluntarily respond to your questions. I offer support. I share resources and I tell you my stories.
I have recently been asked to join a large interfaith website called Patheos. The website is organized like a mobile of sorts. There is a main connection and spokes. On each spoke (or channel) there are different pendants (denominations), and from those pendants there are charms (blogs.) I will be writing as part of the Muslim Channel at Patheos.
I am thrilled to be able to make this move because I will be able to share our stories with more people, reaching out to where they are searching, letting them know they are not alone. So, MyIslamicLife will be moving to Patheos Muslim in the very near future. You won’t need to change your bookmarks if you don’t want to. I’ll still be writing the same content as I do here, talking about the same people and my life. My first post there will be an introduction to the new readers so they don’t get lost in what we all already know.
Thank you for coming along with me. I can’t wait to show you the new place.