As a stone cast upon the water creates ripples, so too, an act of kindness in a lake of despair does the same.
The best way I can describe one of my core beliefs is to recount a story that was an integral part of shaping it.
In December of 1993, 10 days before Christmas, I lay in a hospital bed at Jules Stein Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. The empty socket that had cradled my left eye only a day before was being continuously bathed in the solution that flowed from a thin plastic tube taped to the side of my face. The malignancy was tragic enough, but the despair I felt in that stormy season of broken dreams was far more tragic.
I had just suffered devastating loss. Before the illness, I had lost my parents, my marriage, and my status as a full-time mom to my three-year-old son Matthew. He had become a victim of joint custody and it seemed my entire world had been shattered.
My roommate at Jules Stein was a soft-spoken, 40ish Iranian lady with warm brown eyes and wavy brown medium-length hair named Manzar. She was recuperating from the removal of a tumor from behind her eye that had all but destroyed her sight. Her husband visited her often and I envied the obvious concern he showed for his bedridden wife. We became transient friends, bonding, as many do, through the agency of mutual pain. Between the bouts of nausea and drowsiness, we shared life experiences, philosophies and religion. I was Christian, she was Muslim, but she said she had her own ideas about God.
The Koran, she said, spoke of Jesus. She spoke to me about the peace she felt when she examined the work of God in nature. She told me she believed that all people were God’s children. She couldn’t accept that some were created less equal in the sight of God than others. She bore her true feelings about life and love and we accumulated more than a few hours in heart sharing: faith-to-faith, woman-to-woman, one human being to another.
A day before she was to be released into the care of her devoted husband, we were again sharing our thoughts about life in general. She asked me, “Are you ready for Christmas?” She had no idea that the question she asked was like a knife in my heart. How I wanted to spend a wonderful holiday with my children, but just being able to pay my rent seemed impossible. Turning my head so she wouldn’t see the tears, I quietly answered, “No. We won’t be celebrating this year.”
The next day, Manzar’s husband arrived to bring her home. I was still groggy from the medication and she came to my bedside to say goodbye. Pressing a check into the palm of my hand, she said with motherly concern, “I want you to take this. You must. It’s for your children. You can’t refuse for your children.” She had me. I thanked her with a hug and my newfound friend disappeared. I never saw her again.
I didn’t look at the check immediately. When I did, I was shocked to find that was for $250, a great deal of money to me at the time. What a generous gesture!
But that wasn’t the end of her generosity. After I was released, I began receiving checks from others with Muslim-sounding names, from $25 to $100! Needless to say, I received more than enough to spend the most wonderful holiday with my children and also provide the necessities. This incredible lady had not only given of her own resources but had rallied her Muslim friends to help a “Christian” acquaintance. Without a doubt, it was the nicest thing I can remember anyone doing for a complete stranger. The kindness of this wonderful lady made an indelible impression in my heart.
In a parable of the “Good Samaritan” it was not those who professed faith who earned the title, but those who acted upon it. As a Christian, I am not in agreement with the teachings of the Koran, but it was not the Koran that cared for me in that bleak season of my life. It was the lady whose generosity of spirit went beyond it. Religion is a word, but true faith is expressed in the ripples we create.