Saturday, March 07, 2009

Finally Paying Attention

When I’m passionate about something, I’m REALLY passionate.

However, when I’m apathetic about something, it’s exactly the same way. (If there’s one thing I hate, it’s when people try to MAKE me care about something I don’t WANT to care about, i.e. politics.)

Which is probably why God gave me October for a college roommate. Until I roomed with Tob, I was happy and secure in my little ethnocentric bubble.

Tob shook up my world with new and (literally) foreign ideas. She was the first friend I had who spent more time trying to get out of her comfort zone than happily ensconced in it. When we would go out together, she would insist on trying new places to eat (often places where they didn’t speak English) and talking to strangers who looked “interesting.”

She also had a passion for missions I never could understand.

To be honest, I’ve never had a passion for missions. I’ve never cared about other cultures. I mean, I have a hard enough time keeping up with my own screwed-up culture.

While other kids excitedly paid attention in missions’ classes at Moody, I spent my time calculating how many more minutes until lunch. My writer’s destiny had been hard-wired into my brain since the second grade, and it certainly didn’t include any time purposely spent in a third world country.

All in all, it worked out rather well for me. Other than having to stave off guilt trips from Tob and other mission-minded friends, I was able to mostly go on my merry little way.

Not much has changed, I suppose. But recently, an opportunity has come my way that I think would make Tob quite proud of me.

Three years ago, the CEO of my company asked me to join our local committee for Women’s History Month (March). I was glad for the opportunity, since I’ve long enjoyed publicizing the amazing efforts of women.

As a Christian, of course, my viewpoint is different as I see how God has worked THROUGH women to accomplish His perfect purpose.

This year, our committee was looking for a venue to hold our annual Kick-Off Party. We had a unique offer from an unusual place. The Muslim Association of Greater Rockford (MAGR) was holding its Women in Islam community event and wanted us (Women’s History Month) to be a part of their event.

From the beginning, I was tapped as the link between our two organizations as we coordinated our efforts. Eventually, I joined several committee members on a tour of the MAGR to see how it would be set up for our event.

I don’t know what I was expecting, since I know next to nothing about the Muslim community. What I found was delightful!

Our hostess was this sweet and caring woman who exclaimed over my pregnancy and shared stories of her own. She’s a mother to three boys and told me that she really, really wants a girl “this next time.”

The MAGR also includes a school, so we were able to see the children participating in their physical education classes as we toured the gym.

On one side of the partitioned gym, the boys played basketball. They were a little more dressed up than the boys I went to school with but the shouted encouragements and enthusiasm for the sport was the same.

On the girls’ side, we found a volleyball game in progress. It was a swirl of gorgeous color as the young women in their floor length dresses and headdresses (not sure of the correct word here) sent the ball flying from one side of the net to the other.

My committee was struck by the overt friendliness of everyone in the place, including the little children in their classroom chanting the familiar chorus of ABC’s and 123’s. The only difference was in the conservative dress. And, really, as a former Christian school student, I should feel absolutely at home in such an environment!

I could tell my sister committee members were just as enchanted and charmed as I. Our hostess explained how we would be folded into their event. She told us the annual Women in Islam event is a free, women-only, open-to-the-public event to explain and celebrate the Muslim culture in the community at large.

Participants will receive a nametag with their name written in English along with their name inscribed in Arabic beneath it. There will be henna tattoos available and a delicious Middle Eastern food buffet. There will also be a special speaker, a professor, and a discourse on “Mary: The Chosen One.” Another highlight will be a mother/daughter fashion show.

Our hostess said the fashion show is designed to show how Muslim dress can be incorporated into today’s styles and trends. There will also be styles on the “runway” from India and Palestine.

Understandably, we were all quite energized by the end of the meeting. I have found myself looking forward to tonight for quite a while. For a person who has never been all that interested in other cultures, I’m thrilled to see the inner workings of the Muslim culture, especially here in the community where I live.

As a believer, I have also taken this opportunity to pray and ask God to prepare my heart. I’m sure there are many things I am supposed to learn and take away from this opportunity. He clearly pulled all this together, and so I know I am supposed to pay attention (and not just eat my fill of Middle Eastern food!).

I hope to take some photos and relay my experience as soon as possible. In the meantime, I’ll appreciate your prayers as I attend this event tonight, mingle with different women, and attentively learn about another culture.

Wouldn’t Tob be so proud of me?


joydriven said...

can i come?

Heidi said...

I do envy you. (oops, that is a sin). I LOVE Middle Eastern food and would have loved to be a part of the event as well. I have always been fascinated by other cultures and religions.
I am glad that you enjoyed your experience and that God allowed you to take positive things away from it and hopefully this experience will be used for His glory.