Change: Where To Start

There are those days you feel so uplifted, so inspired, you feel like anything is possible and fixing this messed-up world together is a piece of cake, if everyone pitches in. And humanity is so promising, so why wouldn’t everyone want to help repair? 

Then there are days, which are most days, in which your faith in humanity is almost completely drained. You watch two minutes of the news, you see a documentary on human trafficking, you read a heart-wrenching article, you hear someone’s painful story, you witness death as often as the number of breaths you take– and you realize, humanity is terrible. We are in the twenty-first century and yet there are still those of us who prefer to live with brains, cleverness but without a conscience, soul nor heart.

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The ink has dried and the pen has been lifted; nothing is happening without the consent of God.  The true struggle is to realize this and still realize that it is our responsibility to create change for the better. I had a good friend of mine recently expressing her understandably bitter resentment of the events in the Arab world, and then she added, “I hate to say this, because I know I shouldn’t. I hope God forgives me for saying this… but people are being oppressed and butchered at the hands of obviously bad people. Why is He not answering our prayers, how could He be letting it happen?”

It was difficult to answer because I didn’t know. I know He is All-Wise and it’s not my place to even question it.

But something Dr. Abdal Hakim Jackson said recently a few days ago during Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference really rang with me: “The fact that God allows things to exist, does not mean He is pleased with it.”

This is something to motivate us, to make us realize all is not lost, we have the power, and in fact, the responsibility to fix the world we live in. And yet, things appear so bleak sometimes. To change… where to start? Who to start with, where to even begin? Theorizing is helpful, but it doesn’t get one far. Change needs commitment, sincerity, honesty, integrity and wisdom. You can’t change everything all at once, and yet sometimes that’s what we most want to do. Helplessness, powerlessness, or the perception of it, is the absolute worst condition to be put in. This is why I get irritated at our current mainstream media: as important as it is for the world to be aware of atrocities committed, it is equally important to be aware of the progress and amazing work individuals and great organizations are doing for humanity, to boost people’s morales and motivate them to contribute as well. It seems almost everyone wants to make a change– and yet so little are doing so. WHY? Could it be because as soon as one gets that surge of courage, some determination and willpower– that the news is flipped on and all optimism is drained out? 


That’s the way I feel sometimes. Sometimes I feel like as long as I work on myself, give to others as much as I can, focus on being a great teacher to help raise an alert, aware, passionate and creative generation, I am fulfilling my role that God wants me to do. And then I watch a documentary, I read a book, I listen carefully, and it almost feels like the only value I can possibly bring is if I was, right now, over there, doing surgery on that innocent person who just got attacked– or giving healing counseling to the traumatized child in that country (oh there are so many)… sometimes you think, what’s the point of trying? What am I really doing with my life? And you give up before you try.

Something in the Twitter #RIS2012 feed got my attention, sent me chills, and I wish I knew which speaker said it:

“I fear asking God where are You during these atrocities, because He may ask me, where were you?”

I pray that when we face Him on the Day when there is no turning back, that when He asks us “where were you?” we will have an answer ready… an answer He will be pleased with.

But hey. Maybe that seemingly insignificant duaa you made, because you did not know how else to help, did make a difference. And maybe the little bit of money you donated, wishing you were a millionaire instead, did make a difference because of your sincerity. And maybe that article you shared, thinking no one will read it but it’s worth a shot, did get someone doing something bigger. And maybe, just maybe, everything you do, regardless of how small, actually did make a difference, because it started within deep inside of you and expanded when your ego deflated and your heart could fit more people than yourself. And maybe, just maybe, change begins with the individual…

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” (Rumi)

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~And Allah knows best.

A.S.

 

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Sometimes, Just Sometimes

(Inspired by Sting’s “Book of My Life” and Sound of Reason’s “Shoulder to Lean On” songs.)

Dear Self, 

It’s so interesting how life unfolds– and yours has barely started. The most unexpected things can come to be in situations you thought you had complete control over. The best moments are when realizing, months or years later, just how well everything fits together, like a puzzle– though those puzzle pieces along the way appear completely isolated and completely out of the picture to you. 
 
Although you know how you should theoretically be reacting during a so-called “crisis” (because it’s always a disguised blessing)sometimes, just sometimes, your complicated feelings tell you otherwise and all the wise words of advice you’re receiving become empty words flowing from one ear to another. It’s not for lack of trying, though; you do save those words; you keep them in mind, you write them down– you’re sure they should be coming in handy any moment now. You pretend you take them to heart in the hopes that, while pretending to be what you want to be, you eventually become it.
 
 
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There are various forms of advice one may receive. The people most closest to you, for instance, often love you so much and have such high expectations of you, that when you encounter a problem, they assume you naturally and obviously can deal with it better than anyone else can. You’re a lion in their eyes, so it never occurs to them that you have the capability of feeling more vulnerable than a kitten. So they give you words like “there’s a wisdom behind all this, just wait and see” and “ahhhh, you’re better off anyways”. You nod and agree, because it’s the expected and reasonable thing to do, and the quickest way to feel better. And theoretically, you should be feeling better, if you ignore the fact that your heart is still in a mess. Since you predictably don’t take that into account, you temporarily believe you’ve healed perfectly.
 
Then, when you’re alone, you realize you can no longer lie to yourself. Who are you kidding?
 
Sure you shouldn’t care– but you do.
Sure you should be better than that– but you’re not.
Sure you’re a strong person– but not strong enough.
 
It’s really ironic that during a personal dilemna, rational words of wisdom sometimes, just sometimes, make no impact on the heart. 
Sometimes, just sometimes, the heart doesn’t care for logic. Yes your words make sense, but my heart is still shattered. Yes, that hadith is lovely, but it doesn’t fix what is now broken.
 
While those words are golden and have immense value, and must be told again and again– sometimes, just sometimes, between me, myself & I, it’s best to just be frank and honest with yourself. 
Sometimes, just sometimes, it’s worth saying– “I feel like shit. I acknowledge I feel horrible. It’s OK I feel bad, because how could I not? And why should I not?” 
 
No one is invincible. We all have our weak spots. But in turning to God and letting Him take care of you, even the weak can strengthen and time alone will tell just how much stronger you’ve become as a result of a bitter experience. They say when you are pushed to your knees, you are in the perfect position to pray. And of course this is true, but won’t this only apply if you acknowledge that you’ve been brought down to your knees? In convincing yourself you aren’t bothered, that you’re still standing upright, you’re harming no one but yourself.
 
Without going into unnecessary details, I went through a difficult period a while ago. Thinking back on it now, it doesn’t seem like the biggest deal in the world; way more people have it worse and I wasn’t grateful enough at the time. But going through it then, it was a nightmare I wish I could wake up from. Yet I realized that the most difficult part of it all was not the events themselves, but rather in denying the difficulty of it at the time. I think the term “bottling it all inside” applies quite well; I kept convincing myself that it didn’t get to me, that I didn’t care, that it wasn’t worth thinking about– especially because the most well-meaning people reinforced that by telling me I was so much better off– and they were right, I knew that– but somehow that wasn’t what I was seeking. It was like being thirsty and given a soft drink; sure it quenches your thirst, for the time being, but what you really crave is cold, soothing fresh water. As a result, I found myself spontaneously in the middle of a really good day feeling like I was going to suddenly break down, whenever it was just me and my thoughts. My temporary solution to drown out those thoughts was by constantly having music blasting into my ears during public transportation. It got to the point where I even considered plugging in earphones when walking from one campus building to another, because I couldn’t stand to be with myself even if it was a couple of minutes. This is when I realized I was not letting go at all– I was in fact clinging on to my troubles because I refused to acknowledge they were troubling me at all. 
 
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One day, a friend asked me if everything was OK. You know how some people ask you how you are, just out of habit, without actually caring about your response? 
 
This friend was different. She asked not out of habit, but out of caring. My goal had been to smile brightly, shrug it all off and say “never been better!” But we were alone in the room, there was no need to put on the tough act… I couldn’t lie to myself, and I certainly couldn’t lie to her, because she has this knack to look in your eyes and know when you’re not being genuine. My defenses all fell and I simply burst into tears at the spot. Without knowing the reason, and without being nosy and demanding to find out, she immediately wrapped her arms around me tightly and said, “It’s OK, it’s OK. Let it all out, don’t keep it bottled inside.”
 
And it’s fascinating– I had to ‘let it all out’ and then I was back on my feet– solidly on my feet. Before I was bottling it in, and hence losing my balance. There is a sacredness involved with being honest with yourself and accepting the fact that you, unlike a robot, have emotions. Why do we try so hard to convince ourselves we’re better than we are? We must strive to be better individuals, but in denying your reality and forcing limits on yourself, like “I shall be a robotic human incapable of feeling hurt, sadness, anger or pain”, you instead lose yourself… until someone reminds you that sometimes, just sometimes, it’s normal to be weak and to “let it all out”. 
 
The beautiful thing is, once it’s out, it never comes back in. It was an unwelcome guest imprisoned in you and now that it left, it is most unwelcome to ever return. You now realize you know better, and it’s given you whatever life lesson you were meant to receive from it. You can breathe again. You think back to those thoughtful words of wisdom you didn’t think made a difference and realize just how much impact they did make. They simply got lost in the hurricane of complex thoughts madly swirling in you. Once the inner storm died down, you woke up for real and realized how foolish you’d been acting.
 
But was it foolish? Sometimes, just sometimes… If that’s what it takes to snap you out of … Was it really?
 
الحمد لله
 
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–A.S.

Identity: It’s Not About You

This extremely long [long, long, long!] blog post is dedicated to myself; lest I forget who I am, how I came to be and where I hope to go. Been meaning to write this for a long, long, long time, and now was the absolute perfect timing because, you know, it’s exam period and naturally my brain cares more for blogging than physics. [I am so going to regret this when I wake up.] 

 

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“It’s not about you. It’s about God.”
 
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Those words were said very passionately by Imam Afroz Ali in a Seeker’s Circle session last year. The statement seemed obvious enough, easy to understand, simple to apply. I thought I knew exactly what he meant. 
 
But it’s only recently I’ve been absorbing what those words really mean… 
 
You know what the absolutely wonderful thing about keeping bits and pieces of your writings here and there is? It’s that you discover things about yourself you never knew were a part of you. Not knowing what you’re made of makes it very difficult to fix your flaws when they appear to be non-existent because no one seems to see them- probably because you’re surrounding yourself with people who have the same thing and thus can’t, or don’t want, to spot it. But I have about 15 Aya-ish genre short stories typed up, and it was inevitable that, with time and honest self-analysis, eventually I would come to learn the truth about myself through their characters.
 
Here’s an amusing fact– I never feel like I’ve changed at all. (Honestly!) I still have the same identical smile from a photograph of my three-year old self, and my favorite color has not changed since then. I seem to recall the ground being the same distance away from my nose for as long as I can remember; have I really gotten taller since I was five? My favorite pair of jeans from grade 9 still fit me now, a decade later, and my sense of humor from then has barely changed.
 
Sometimes I think to myself– am I still a 13-year old in an adult’s body or was I a 23-year old in a teenager’s body all along?
 
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Here’s the thing: I don’t know. (I know one thing, though: I know what you’re thinking): 
 
Aya, you’re making no sense, as usual– where are you going with this? Can you quit blabbering and get to the point?
 
Just trust me, I’m getting there. 😉
 
OK, so the other day I chose to procrastinate (regrettably so *sigh*) and opened up the most recent short story I’d typed up a couple of years ago. It was written during exam time then (*Surprise! Past procrastination during exams! History repeats itself*). In 2010 of December, I’d just had this explosively weird plot in my head that absolutely needed to be pulled out of my distracted brain and projected onto a Microsoft Word document at any means possible. I simply was not able to focus on studies with so many characters and names and colors in my mind– so in two days I wrote some really bizarre but comical, humorous Muslim love story that consisted of an alien invasion somewhere in between. (You don’t want to live in my brain, trust me.) 
 
This was only two years ago; I couldn’t have been a very different person back then. I read it carefully now, surprised at oh-so-subtle things the characters thought and did that I would not think or do now.  But, of course, if the protagonists thought a certain way, it was usually because I did back then, too. I decided to look through some older short stories– ones I’d written back in high school and CEGEP days, before I turned a fifth of a century old– and was almost horrified at what I came across. 
 
Damn, I thought. I still found the plots hilarious and they still fell into the same genre of Aya-randomness, but something was not right. The most obviously disturbing factor that stood out was this: my so-called “good”,”ideal”, “religious”, “righteous” characters were more like the “religious jerks” I vehemently speak out against quite often these days. For example: the “good” characters tended to get very impatient with those of lesser practicing degree, as though anyone and everyone who did not follow every aspect of the Sunnah was doing it deliberately out of rebellion and not so out of ignorance or forgetfulness. My “open-minded” characters had very little tolerance to new ideas. Alright, granted these “new ideas” tended to be very obvious deviant things, but it wasn’t the content that bothered me, it was they way that they reacted to them– devoid of wisdom. My “good Muslim” characters would put down someone they thought was not working to their potential, and this was done more out of a sense of pride being injured/ conceit/ arrogance, than out of a genuine concern of another’s well-being.
 
 
These characters were not proud Muslims because of their belief in God, but rather because it was an integral part of their identity.
An attack on Islamic values thus was seen to be an attack on them. Their pride came from their vain love of themselves and what they represented, not from their unconditional love for God and what represented them. 
 
There is no denial that these characters are a representation of who I was. It made me pause, and wonder: how did I become that way, and when did I change? 
 
Here is my theory: Islam is a major theme in all my stories, as it has always been my main driving force for my entire life. I can accurately say that growing up in Canada and attending schools from kindergarten to high school graduation in English sectors where there were very little Muslims (and almost zero Arabs) had a major impact on how I related to Islam. 
 
You know, before high school, everyone thinks everything is great, regardless of where they’re from and what nationality you are. You can tell someone your name ‘Ayah’ means a ‘verse of the Quran’ (actually, my 7-year old self mistakenly told the entire class it was equivalent to the word ‘Quran’ itself… woops!) and everyone will think you are the most positively unique person ever. You could have zaatar sandwiches every day for lunch and it didn’t matter that your white pita bread had dark green suspicious filling inside– if she says it’s yummy, why wouldn’t it be?
 
You can tell the world you’re Muslim and Arab
 
and these things are simply words to innocent children ears,
 
they mean nothing bad…
 
Yet.
 
Come high school and I find myself the only Muslim, and the only Arab girl in my classes. It was in grade seven that I began really exploring what it was to be a Muslim. I cannot speak for teenager experiences in other parts of the globe, but in the West, identity is the most important thing in a teenager’s life. Everyone wants to establish who they are and feel comfortable in their own skin. For me, this meant embracing not only the values I was raised with but to understand why I was doing what I was doing and to be honest with myself, if I wanted to continue doing them. With me being the one of the youngest (12-years old) attendee of a new halaqa filled mainly of 17 and 18 year old girls, I really began to love my faith. In addition, my extensive research on resourceful (but no longer existing) websites like IslamOnline with all their convert stories, news updates and Ask The Scholar sections, were my essential foundations in my knowledge. I was convinced I was on the right path, I knew more than many people my age, and I was proud to be me.
 
Did you see what I did there? I was proud to be “ME”. Keep this in mind, because it is going to be a very, very important in a couple of paragraphs…
 
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OK, so I was happy with my identity. How about everyone else at school? Ask any teenager and you’ll find her primary concern is to be accepted– not by God (because barely anyone reaches pure taqwa at the tender age of 12) but by people, friends at the least. I wanted people to embrace me the way I was, all the while ironically expecting to blend in (ha!). However, I soon came to realize, being Arab was something to be wary of or pitied, always associated with newly attacked Iraq… being Muslim was seen as “oh… but I thought you were Italian Christian or Jewish?” (in pre-hijab era) and “you mean your parents didn’t force you to wear it?” (post hijab era). The whole can’t-wear-shorts-to-gym-class, and can’t-go-to-the-school-dance, and sorry-I-can’t-hug-you-because-you’re-a-guy, and can’t-drink-or-smoke-or-attend-your-parties were not the biggest deals as some might assume; I thank God the school environment was generally tolerant and it was pretty multicultural. 
 
But yet, despite the multiculturalism, I still always somehow found myself being expected to be the spokesperson for entire populations, as though I had any idea what the millions of Muslims in the world experienced or as if there was a one precise “Muslim worldview” set in stone. Do you know what pressure that is for a teenager? I remember taking it on like a champ, but now I come to think of it, how did I accept such a silent challenge so confidently? My goodness, I barely know anything now enough and yet back then, I thought I knew it all. While everyone around me was concerned about what movie to go see with their friends, who they should date, what lip gloss shined the most– I found myself continuously (with the best of intentions on the part of others, though) bracing myself to defend the religion or the Arab population. When a teacher said something ignorant about Muslims or Arabs, heads would automatically sort of turn to me and without a pause, expecting the one hijabi to know all the answers related to anything in the Middle East. Once a well-meaning student who clearly didn’t know what Islam was and clearly did not corrolate my hijab with Islam, spoke to the class about some forward chain email he received stating that verse 9:11 foreshadowed the crumbling of the Twin Towers. Heads swivelled to me and I burst out how preposterous that was, and vowed to bring the real verse 9:11 to the class the next day. (Luckily, it was a verse on forgiveness and mercy. No one dared ever contradict me when I told them their facts were wrong ever since then.) 
 
It was always me that had to put my foot down and speak out. I got so used to speaking out, so used to “knowing so much”, that somehow my ego convinced me I was the best of the best Muslims there are. When I went to Palestine after 13 years of not visiting, my relatives were pleasantly surprised that my siblings and I could read tajweed Quran, speak Arabic, and knew more about fiqhi issues than a lot of people there. I am ashamed to admit it, but this got to my secretly swollen head. I was convinced I knew so much, and felt obliged to share my knowledge… although I cannot recall if I wanted to share because I cared or simply to show I knew…
 
You see, I was vainly proud to have found my identity at such a young age and I attributed this to my own digging and soul-searching, instead of acknowledging the fact it was the Lord who opened my heart to it in the first place. “It’s all about me!” It had nothing (alright, it had something, but not completely) to do with God. Yes, I sought Him and yes, I yearned to be with Him, but at the same time, I wanted to let the world know this is who I am. Not this is what I represent! Or why I am! But just simply, this is me because it’s my identity and without my identity I am nobody. So naturally, it was difficult to accept that some people led drastically different lifestyles and could still be “right”, because this challenged the secret notion deep in my chest that I knew better.
 
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Now, after all that thinking, it makes sense to me:
 
“It’s not about you. It’s about God.”
 
Imagine standing before your Lord on the day of Judgment… only to receive your Book of deeds in your left hand… because it appears all your deeds were meaningless and only done to soothe your own ego and make you feel good about yourself… it had never been about the deen, about the truth, or about God– it had only been about feeling like you had a place, a presence and an impression in the world.
 
“It’s not about you. It’s about God.”
 
It’s really scary to be put in this situation. I tried to not admit this to myself, but if I don’t, how can I get out of it, if I am indeed an arrogant person? I pray every day never to fall back into it. I’m still not sure how deep I I ever was into, but my writings are evidence of a crime I was unconsciously committing against my soul. 
 
They say college time is the best years of your life. I agree college was a blast– I finally knew what it meant to be a part of an MSA, to see and speak and relate to Muslims who have been through similar experiences; I didn’t have to keep justifying myself and explaining why I can’t eat gelatin or McDonald’s- it was nice to relate, but we were all on the same level, more or less. It was really during my days at McGill, surrounded by people from all over the world, with unique experiences and wisdom, that I was really exposed to vastly different thinking (usually think-outside-the-box-while-keeping-it-halal) and in the beginning, I was intimidated to even approach such great minds; for the first time ever, I felt very ignorant, stupid and clueless. I knew so little in comparison… The more I learned, the less I realized I knew and at this point, I’m not sure where to start seeking knowledge because it seems I know virtually nothing, so where do I start?
 
But I realized that the more profoundly inspiring that individual was, the more humble (and yet he/she will claim not to be anywhere near humility) they were. I made it my mission to surround myself with people that were better than me in all areas– knowledge, life experiences, virtues, interesting personalities– I wanted to always be among a group of people that inspired me to go beyond what I was and never be satisfied with my limitations.
 
The ironic thing is, I got less and less selective of who these noble and great people were; the only criteria was that they had to be better than me.
 
Lately everyone I meet is better than me. I have yet to meet one person who is “below”. For instance, If I have more knowledge, they have more deeds; if I have more deeds, they have more difficult life trials they’ve handled with unbelievable patience; if I have patience, they have wisdom; if I have any wisdom, they have the gift of gratitude that overwhelms; if I am grateful, they are probably the reason I am grateful. It’s an endless cycle that never ends.
 
God is too good to me. I must never forget that I am blessed. And indeed, I must never forget that who I am is important not because it defines my identity– my identity need not be more than a servant of Allah. It is important because it reminds me of my place in the world, and my life’s purpose.
 
Remember, Aya: always remember until your last dying breath:
 
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“It’s not about you. It’s about God.”
 
***
 
~ And Allah knows best.
 
-A.S.

Bounty & Smiles

This blog post is dedicated to all those who appreciate the spontaneous acts of kindness from a stranger as much as I do. It is especially dedicated to people who have been making me smile while we were still practically strangers– i.e. Sarah Khan.

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Whenever we think of ‘kindness to a stranger’, we might visualize looking after the poor, tending to the orphan, or something else of that sort. But noble and inexplicably valuable as those deeds are, this is not the subject of this post. I will not be referring to the large acts of kindness and mercy that humanity cannot survive without; I will instead be referring to the little, small, unexpected and seemingly ‘worthless’ acts of kindness we often don’t do because we’re too busy in our own thoughts to pause and be a part of someone else’s.

CONTEXT: I have a final exam tomorrow, and so naturally, all day I was a hermit crab studying in odd corners here and there around campus where I saw and interacted with almost no one. At the end of the day, I ate lunch with my friend Sarah Khan (what a relief) but she soon left and I went back to complex matrices and inner product spaces. I can’t tell you (cuz you already know) what it feels like to be cut off from society when you’re under academic stress– you may feel sort of down, exhausted, irritable. These feelings I always used to associate with the nervousness that accompanies any exam, but today– today, I realized I was wrong. It is not stress of exams that is emotionally draining, it is the situations we force ourselves into while preparing for them that is.

After a long day of orthogonalization, dirac delta functions and hysteresis loops, I remembered I needed a few supplies from Dollarama. As I was standing waiting for my turn in the very long line at the cash, something was tempting me from the tip of my eye…

Mmmmmmmm. Chocolate. And let’s see what else– double YUMMMMMM! BOUNTY! And dark chocolate version!!!!!

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NO, Aya, I thought sharply to myself. You don’t need that. You shouldn’t want that. If you must absolutely have some, buy it after your exam tomorrow.

But alas, it was not to be left alone. After much inner conflict that lasted the spam of a few seconds, I impulsively stepped aside, grabbed one and quickly returned to my place. The chocolate was ironically sitting side by side next to the toothpaste in my palm, as though mocking me that it was as good for my teeth as the toothpaste was.

I hoped no one noticed my dramatic act of desperation. But the older 50-year-old-ish man in front of me, apparently, did.

He turned around with a deep chuckle and said, “Tu sais, madame, cette chocolat n’est pas bon pour vous.”

I was astounded. WOW, some old man who didn’t have a clue about my identity was comfortable enough to lightly scold me about buying chocolate? I grinned as a response and replied, “Mais donc, j’ai des examens, je besoin un peu d’encouragement!”

He chuckled that adorable chuckle again and assured me, “Ne t’inquiete pas; meme a mon age, j’achete beaucoup de cette chocolat.”

Then we got into an enlightened conversation about just how mouthwatering Bounty chocolate is. This resulted not only in making me feel like chocolate indeed can and should be bought for all wise purposes, but it gave me a chance to work on my French speaking skills as well. (Double bonus!)

After we departed, I felt elated, cheerful and light. An encounter with a totally unfamiliar person was enough to erase my feelings of oh-I-shouldn’t-be-buying-chocolate guilt into optimism, for truly, when has chocolate ever failed to bring people together?

It is times like these, seemingly uninteresting, unimportant, and apparently not worth documenting, that I find the most special time of the day. It’s wonderful to smile in the face of your friend, family or an acquaintance– it’s wonderful indeed, for smiling is a gift– but usually, it is a gift that is to be expected. Whereas when a complete stranger smiles at you, especially in a time you most need it– it is this that sends my heart soaring up high and makes me arrive home looking like I just won the lottery. (“And why are you smiling?” I might be asked at home slyly.)

Here is a most wonderful quote that everyone should take to heart:

A Smile costs nothing, but gives much. 
It enriches those who receive, without making poorer those who give.
It takes but a moment, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever. 
None is so rich or mighty that he can get along without it, 
and none is so poor, but that he can be made rich by it. 
A Smile creates happiness in the home, fosters good will in business, and is the countersign of friendship. 
It brings rest to the weary, cheer to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and it is nature’s best antidote for trouble. 
Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, 
for it is something that is of no value to anyone, until it is given away.
~
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It’s hard, waiting for a random act of kindness. This is why it’s so much fun to be the initiator. The best kinds of smiles from strangers are the surprised ones. You shine your pearly whites at that old woman who looks lonely; she looks back at you, puzzled; then she hesitantly but gratefully returns one back. Sometimes the stranger will even be “brave” enough to start a conversation on the metro with you. It’s so uplifting and, and…

And I don’t know where I’m going with this. All I know is, I was feeling a little down today until an old man thought it worthy to chide me about my obsession with chocolate. Which resulted in me smiling at everyone else on my way home, getting a million Colgate-worthy smiles in return, and feeling like the richest person in the world.

Bounty and smiles; you can’t go wrong in that combination.

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–A.S.