At least, we think she was homeless.
My mom and I were walking into a grocery store when a woman asked us if we could buy her something to eat. She was wearing faded denim shorts, an orange tank top, and flip flops. She looked to be in her late forties. She seemed harmless enough. Even before we got out of the car my mom was weary of her and told me not to look at her. She didn’t look dangerous.
I had a feeling my mom would end up giving her some money anyway. After all, this is the same woman who nearly stopped to give a crack head money in the middle of Chicago, after dark, in the dead of winter. (He wasn’t even asking for money.)
So we get out of the car and this lady says “Excuse me!” but I don’t look at her because my mommy told me not to. Instead, I turn my head and look at my mother who, of course, stopped to hear what this lady had to say. Once she has my mom’s attention she meekly asks “Can you buy me something to eat?” and my mom is all too pleased to say “Sure! What would you like?”
She simply asked for a soda, but its just not in our nature to do things without going overboard. Our own shopping list only consisted of a gallon of milk and Brylcreem for my grandpa (I still don’t know what that is), so we had plenty of fun picking out goodies for this lady. We grabbed cookies, chips, crackers, a sandwich, and two drinks. We figured it was enough to hold her over for at least a day and a half, but not so much that she couldn’t carry it with her.
Now imagine our surprise when we walk out of the grocery store and she’s not where we left her. Our first thought was “What are we going to do with this sandwich now??? It’s not halal!” We got into our car and drove around a little bit until we found her hanging out in the back of the parking lot with some guy. They were about sixty feet away from our car, and there was a stray shopping cart between us, so I put the grocery bag in the cart, flagged the lady down and ran back to my car. The lady came running towards the bag, and when she saw what was in it her jaw dropped. She grabbed the bag and ran back to her friend, clearly excited.
On the way home, my mom and I were uncontrollably giddy. Honestly I think we were more excited than the lady we gave the food to. Like, how often do you get the chance to do something like that? It was cool. When we got home and told my grandparents what happened, they both said “You need to be more careful! That wasn’t safe! She just wants money for drugs!” And while I get where they’re coming from, it was kind of disheartening to hear.
I feel like we’ve been taught to think that all strangers are dangerous or trying to steal your wallet, but if we keep thinking like that we’ll never be able to help anyone. I mean yes, it’s hard to trust people, but sometimes you just have to go with your gut. At the end of the day, it’s about your intentions, and wanting to please Allah SWT. My mom complained that the lady didn’t actually thank us, and I had to remind her she didn’t do this to get a thank you. Maybe that lady was a crack head. Maybe she wasn’t even homeless. But that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. She bought that lady food with the intention to do some good, and with the knowledge that she would feel guilty if she didn’t.
This reminded me of the time we were leaving the Masjid after Jummah, and they told everybody that the women who were standing outside the Masjid in hijabs and asking people for money weren’t actually Muslim, and we should ignore them. And I couldn’t help but think, if they needed money, shouldn’t we give them money? Who cares what their faith is, right? They aren’t hurting anyone, and they’re desperate. If I give them five dollars with the intention of helping them put food on the table, no harm comes to me once the money leaves my hands, regardless of what they use that money for.
I just don’t like how we’re told to be so picky about who we help. Even in Ramadan, we’re told, “Oh here’s the list of Muslim charities” or “Here’s the list of Indian Charities.” Never, “Here’s all the people that need help.” I just think that’s kinda messed up. I mean, I understand wanting to help other Muslims. Of course we all want to do that. But isn’t it our duty to help everyone else too? How else will Islam spread, if we only keep to ourselves, or if we look like we don’t care about other people?
Moral of the story: Being in a position to help someone less fortunate is a blessing. Don’t overlook your opportunity to do something good, no matter what it is, or who you help.