I finished my exam early, eager to leave campus and head home before night consumed the sky. Skipping down the steps, I hear the sound of my flats tapping against the stairs along with another sound I can’t make out; a noise like tumbling golf balls. Swiftly heading towards the exit door, I stop mid-stride to witness an ocean ahead of me. Oh God. My car is parked all the way at the end of the parking lot and I didn’t bring my umbrella with me. Should I wait out the rainstorm? Should I make a run for it? I’ll be drenched from head to toe. A lady comes up by me, sees me debating and staring at the wet outdoors, pauses to take out her umbrella and looks at me then heads out. Had I been her, I would have offered her to share my umbrella, I thought to myself.
After lingering for some time, I decide to make a run for it; I’ll just use my folder as an umbrella. I stagger through the first set of doors and ready myself for the monsoon. As I step through the second set of doors and into the downpour, I hear someone saying something. A woman from outside comes out of nowhere, holds an umbrella big enough to fit a bus, and says “Here, come share my umbrella.” She didn’t ask, she didn’t offer just to be polite, rather she immediately assisted. I asked where she was headed because I didn’t want her to go out of her way for me. She pointed to the parking lot where my car was parked. I thanked her and walked along side this woman who wanted to keep me dry. Her smile shined through the rain and lit up the cloudy sky.
God heard my thoughts and sent me a gift. Who is this caring human and where exactly was she standing? Was she waiting outside for me? As we walk across the pavement, we chat a little about the sudden rainstorm, but mostly we walk in silence, me appreciating her gentle presence. She approaches her car and I point to mine a few cars away. As we part she tells me to take care, and I wish her a blessed night.
Dear thoughtful stranger: May God bless you, your family, your days and nights. May He fill your life with kind people as you were so kind to me, happiness, and fulfillment.
I was leaving. I just had to put some things away before I left. I was drained from the long day I had had and I was thinking about everything I still had to do. My mind was completely occupied by my stresses. And then I sneezed. I don’t remember if I said “Alhamdulilah” (All praise is due to God) to myself or out loud, but the next thing I heard was a distant voice say to me, “Yarhamaki Allah” (May God have mercy on you) and intuitively I replied “Athabana wa athabekum Allah” (May God reward you and me). I was taken aback and couldn’t really grasp what just happened. I couldn’t stop thinking about the sneezing incident the whole way to my car, and the whole car ride home and hours later, it was still on my mind. Maybe it’s because I know that others would have never replied in the proper manner if I sneezed around them. Maybe it’s because it was an act that went back to Allah–something I crave around here because it’s so rare, especially in school. Maybe because it was completely unexpected–I thought I was alone in the hallway then out of nowhere you, a stranger I have never met before, came and asked Allah to have mercy on me. Maybe it’s because in a time when I feel that my insignificance in this world is at its pique, you recognized me. Albeit a small way, it was still significant to me. You still made the gesture to reach out to me, something I don’t know that I would have done had our roles been reversed.
I don’t know why it impacted me so much because sneezing is a part of everyday life and the replies to sneezing are second nature, but it did impact me. It really, truly made my day.
Dear stranger with the proper sneezing etiquette: may Allah grant you someone to make your days and make you feel as significant as you made me feel and more. Ameen.