As I progress in life, the more I realize that I need to rein in my spontaneity and passion.
An image from my childhood keeps nagging me. I was not more than six when I went to my grandfather’s barber shop one day. There was a man outside loading boxes or somethings onto a donkey cart. My little self watched him, and from the way his face was knotted into fatigue, I felt sorry for him and decided to go help him load the boxes. Decades have passed and I still recall that feeling that disturbed my heart as I stood there watching him. I walked over and attempted to put a box on the cart. Then I heard someone shouting at me. It was that same man. He thought I was playing with his things. Being a kid, I didn’t get the chance to explain myself to him. I went back to my grandpa’s shop defeated. I was only a kid beginning to learn about the life of adults. Did that man want to teach me not to help others?
As I grew older, I don’t remember that I was severely traumatized by that incident. But it would be years before I’m put in similar positions where I’d help others only to receive hurt in return. Or to discover that I’d been used as a means to their ends.
When someone would ask for help, I’d give with all my heart. I guess for me it was never about the material aspect of giving— It was about giving with love. I was content to know that I had a heart that empathized. I was content because, to me, giving was never about receiving anything in return. Just a thank you would’ve made my day. A mere acknowledgment.
The more people I dealt with, the more I realized that my idealism had no place in this world. I don’t mean that I expect people to be flawless because looking at myself, I know I’m far from perfection.
Give and you will Receive
Being humans, we are a social people. I believe that society is built and developed by our collective efforts in assisting one another. Although the subject of giving may instantly trigger money in people’s minds, my experience has been with intangible possession: knowledge and advice.
I’ve never felt that giving advice or knowledge meant that my reservoir of knowledge would dry up. It’s a value deeply inculcated in my mind that: the more knowledge I give, the more beneficial it would be to me. Sharing knowledge means I’ve let it grow outside of me. I’ve transferred it to another human being who will also transfer it to someone else and so on.
Our Prophet Mohammed Peace be upon him was granted the highest form of knowledge—the holy Quran. What did he do with it? He didn’t isolate himself in a cave to worship God. He continued to teach it to his people, to explain to them its teachings and ethics, “…And We have revealed to you the Reminder that you may make clear to men what has been revealed to them… (16:44).” All great people in history were ones who gave all they could. They gave because they knew that passing down their legacy of knowledge was the noblest act of humanity.
The default behavior I had when I graduated from university was that teachers and students would stay in touch and guide each other. But the big disappointment was that you become a nobody once you graduate. Professors have better things to do than remember your outstanding performance and the possibilities that lie in keeping in touch with you. Even if you try to contact them, you suddenly get this eerie feeling that you’ve become an outsider.
So you begin to build your own world.
In this world of yours, you keep learning and evolving and most importantly—giving. You never stop giving, especially those younger ones who look up to you. The ones who need guidance and mentorship throughout different parts of their academic and personal life. Giving is what makes you human. You latch on to giving as if you’re holding on to what is left of humanity. You keep giving because you know that you never lose by giving. Because when you give, your heart is happy to know that you made a difference in someone’s life.
A Crisis of Values
With the everyday advancements in technology, people’s values and ethics recede. A new app or device dictates our lifestyles and turns us in automatons.
We see more people lacking regard for other’s feelings. People who don’t weigh their responses because social media taught them to write whatever meaningless or unrefined words that come to their minds. It taught them that they can speak their minds without being censored. The only censorship a person would get is if they criticized occupiers and world powers who subjugate nations.
For those of us who choose to stay anchored to the values of love, kindness, and empathy, I know the world is turning into a dystopian place. Although I live in a besieged land, under occupation, under intermittent Israeli attacks—a place devoid of life, I’ve chosen to cling to my humanity. It’s what binds me to any person on this globe.
The blockade imposed on Gaza is meant to crush not only our livelihoods, but also our spirit. Our oppressors hope to kill all the virtues we hold sacred so we become devoid of emotion toward each other. In a world dominated by greed and lust for power, we must uphold kindness all empathy. If I can’t bring justice to my people, then I’ll try to alleviate their suffering in the small ways that I’m capable of. I’ll choose to keep smiling to my neighbors. I’ll choose to help the old woman cross the street. I’ll choose to keep visiting my loved ones and to tell them how much I love them. I’ll look for a person to help every day. I won’t be fooled by people’s job statues, social media statuses or any other statuses. When I deal with people for who they are, I’ll be more at peace. I’ll befriend people just for the sake of friendship. I’ll go out for coffee with them just to spend some relaxing moments. Neither one of us expecting a material benefit.
I have a limited number of people in my life who fall under this last category of divine friendships. It’s comforting to know that such people still exist despite the techno craze we’re living in. These kind of people are rare gems. If you do find them, hold on to them. They will make your journey lighter. They’ll teach you to rediscover yourself. They’ll give you immense wisdom and possibly teach you new ways of spreading love within and outside yourself.
I have so much to say. Until we meet next time on lessons I learned from life.