I had visited the fast food restaurant in the late evening to use their free wi-fi. Being a single mother with no internet in my apartment at the time I was using my limited internet time to check emails, job search, and enjoy a large cold soda – the cheapest thing on the menu I could afford while my children played a few yards away.
With three kids to keep an eye on and work to do as well, you could say I was distracted – looking up every minute or so to keep an eye on their shenanigans and whereabouts interspersed with head-down bursts of working. I know that my son had found another boy his age to play with, they were both about three at the time, and were happily engaged in their make believe.
Suddenly, my son came running to me crying with his hand covered in blood – every mother’s nightmare. Shocked, I grabbed the only thing I had at the moment to cover his wound – some brown paper napkins, and promptly started to panic. How was I going to get my three kids in the car and drive to the nearest urgent care or hospital (a five minute drive) while also holding the napkins on my son? I wished then that I had the foresight to have purchased a proper first aid kit to keep in my trunk, and the guilt washed over me.
Thankfully, the father of the other child my son was playing with came over to calm me down. “Assalamu Alekoum” he said, a typical greeting from one Muslim to another that means “Peace upon you.” “Don’t worry,” he said, “calm down, everything’s going to be fine, insha’Allah.” Insha’Allah means “God willing” and these dozen words helped me relax a bit and focus on next steps.
You see, I’m a Muslim woman who usually wears the hijab, a fabric head covering that makes me visible as a Muslim woman, a believer in Islam. While this man and his wife were not looking or dressing like typical Muslims, I was – which made it easier for him to reach out to me with comforting words from our shared faith.
This same man helped me get all my kids in the car, packed up our stroller into the trunk, and offered to follow me to the hospital as well – and did show up a few minutes later just as we were headed in to get my son’s stitches. He visibly inspected the broken play equipment on which my son was injured and talked to management on my behalf as well.
When he followed up with me at the hospital he handed me his card and offered to be a witness to the accident. This was invaluable because when I was able to get back to the restaurant the next day to take pictures of the scene myself, that particular piece of equipment was missing, a large hole in the matting the only thing that remained. Turns out that some of the play equipment was not bolted properly to the floor and also had jagged edges – edges that sliced open my sons hand as he played and required 5-6 stitches.
Fortunately, my son was not the worse for the accident and still has full mobility of his hand – an issue we were worried about for a time. Thankfully the cut was not deep enough to damage any of his muscles. The company eventually settled out of court for the medical expenses due to their maintenance negligence and that kind man and I never met again.
However, I was keenly grateful to know that as a woman of the Islamic faith I have a sometimes silent sometimes visible community who is there for me when the going gets tough. I have a community that will help me through those heartbreaking moments in life, when, especially as a single mom, I need the encouragement and support to be strong and brave. I have a community that reminds me that we’re all in this together, and who are quick to jump in and help others. A community that reminds us all to have faith in a higher power to truly make things right and heal us quickly.
I learned a few lessons that day, I’m sure all of us did, not the least of which is that it takes a community to work through a crisis, and that the small kindnesses of strangers can help to make everything okay.