#sundayvibes #ItsOkayToNotBeOkay

I remember it like it was yesterday.

I sat sandwhiched between entitlement and poverty on an international flight.

Only I didn’t know it yet.

A white blond woman was seated next a Pakistani man.
She was perhaps in her forties and looked well-to-do.

The man next to her was wearing traditional Pakistani attire and was thin as they come.

I could tell from his face that he had been through the ringer. Life had not been easy for him. He looked famished but resilient.
The lady next to him was doing everything in her entitled power to make abundantly clear how deeply inconvenienced she felt sitting next to him.

I offered my window seat to the gentleman so that I would sit between them before a flight attendant was bothered.

She grunted.
I noticed her watch. Michael Kors. The quintessential Starbucks (which I also had in my hand) and the familiar scent of Lily by Marc Jacobs contrasted the absolute simplicity of the man to my right.

That’s when I had a conversation which changed my life.

The plane took off.
When the food came around, the woman muttered something about how she hates airplane food.

The man, I soon noticed, was awkwardly pouring his jam onto some cheese and would nervously look at me and then back.

I realized he had no idea how to eat what was in front of him.
“It can be confusing, food in a plane!” I said in Urdu, so that he wouldn’t feel embarrassed.

I showed him the way to eat the cheese with the crackers and the jam with the bread and butter.

He spoke a very rustic form of village Urdu. I asked him his story.

He began:
“When I was young I was sold to the human trafficking market in Pakistan. One day a group of us just escaped.”

I was shocked.

“I returned to my village but many of my cousins and friends did not. I was one of the lucky ones.”

He said it with true gratefulness and pain.
“I go to Kuwait for 6 months at a time for labor work.” He explained the harsh conditions, but not with complaint.

He wore an indignant smile the whole time.

I asked him how much he made in 6 months.

“Oh we’re very blessed now! With this new job I’ll be getting 25,000 RS!”
He was beaming.

I tried to smile. I really did. 25,000 rupees was $200.00 Canadian.

“And before that, what were you doing?” I pressed on, perhaps insensitively.

This time he broke eye contact. Became distant.

“We worked - school wasn’t an option.” He laughed timidly.
He explained how he walked several miles everyday with some other boys to carry different foodstuff and tools.

“Those were the good times,” he continued.

“We would each get our own flatbread for dinner and had it with crushed chillies!”

I looked at my iced Caramel Macchiato.
The lady who sat to my left tried to make her annoyance that we were speaking not-English as pronouncedly clear as she could.

But we were on an international flight from Qatar.

So I paid no heed.

Sometimes you just don’t feed intolerance any oxygen at all.
That’s when it hit me.

I had on me just over 200.00 CAD which I had kept aside for any emergency. I kept thinking about his daughters.

I asked to see more pictures of them and he had many. There was no toy in the pictures. But they looked so happy.

So palpably content.
“You know,” I said to him.

The Prophet Muhammad once said, “When God intends good for His servant, He grants him a daughter.”

He became emotional. “No doubt!”

I could see the fire of pride raging in this fathers chest - the flickers danced in his eyes.

This man was my age.
I could have been him and he, myself.

The realization fell like explosive thunder on my heart. It was only God’s Grace that I grew up in a paradise called #Canada.

I realized then and there that the 200.00 in my pocket never belonged to me. I would not keep it a second more.
“Can you help me?” I asked him.

“Of course!” He sat up immediately.

“I need you to promise me you will take this as a trust. There is someone in your village I must send an important thing to. Promise me you’ll deliver it to their hands,” I tried to say it with urgency.
He was perplexed.

“How do you know anyone in my village?”

“ I know several people in your village,” I responded.

I took out the envelope with the money.

“There are 2 little girls in your village. This belongs to them. Please do this favor for me.”

He was utterly confused.
“What is this?”

He opened the envelope, and he looked back at me with horror. It was 6 month’s salary for him in Pakistani rupees.

He pushed it back unceremoniously into my hands. “HOW are you carrying all this? I cannot take it!”

He looked both offended and scared.
“Brother,” I explained calmly.

You are my brother in humanity. And then in Islam. I want to send to my nieces this envelope. I am not giving it to you. You are doing me a favor. A huge favor. Please. Tell them an Ahmadi Muslim uncle sent it.”

He very reluctantly took it.
It was quiet.

“You know I work six months for this amount,” he said, his voice cracking from trying to contain his emotions to his trembling throat.

I looked at him. I was so ashamed. We spend $200 on a few groceries or a couple of meals at Moxies with friends.
But what he will never know is that the impress that he left on my heart is greater than all the money in the world.

We may never see each other again, but there’s this connection on the most human level imaginable between two people connected by an act of simple kindness.
And I don’t mean the cash.

God, no.

The kindness was in him accepting it from me and giving me the gift of imagining his little daughters with another dress or two. Maybe a toy.

We who grew up in Canada. We have everything.


So let’s give back a little.
You can follow @SabahatAliR.
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