It's here, one of the most wonderful times of the year. Every year, I look forward to this month of fasting with eager anticipation. I know, many of my friends speak of how hard it is to be in the Muslim world at this time of year. And what they say is true- people get into fights more easily, get more irritated, eat more, and speed to make it home just before sunset. But it's not that I choose to focus on something else. It's just that the other side of it is more present to me: the joy I see in Muslim faces as Ramadan begins; the excitement in zeal, in striving to complete duty and being diligent to come closer to God; the feasting at day's end; and the opportunities for fasting. And then again, the joy at being able to taste food and drink freely as 'Id al F'tur approaches- the joy of fulfillment that is only known when one has experienced the lack.
Personally, I look forward to this most as it is the greatest time of prayer for me in the year. It's something about the focus in prayers that it provides, both in fasting and the reminder to pray for blessing for Muslims, as I partake in their religious traditions. Something was missing last year when I couldn't fast because of medical conditions. But it is different being over here, where no one fasts, and no one even knows Ramadan is going on. And though I might fast at the time of the Muslim holy days, I am still Christian, and fast in the Christian manner- which means being joyful, putting oil on my face, and not going around telling people I'm fasting. (Except here. But who really reads this anyway? And yes, the oil reference was metaphorical.)
This leads to some added difficulties. Like the hardest time I've ever had during the fast, when we had the Day of Caring at United Way on Friday. Day of Caring is a great idea, an encouragement promoted by United Way of King County to donate your employee's work time to serving the poor and disenfranchised in the community. Some in our department went to Transitional Resources, a program helping the severely mentally ill adjust to life in society. We spent the day weeding, cutting tall grass, trimming hedges, and raking up piles. It was hard work, but extremely pleasurable, to do work with your hands, as Paul says, and to be out in nature, enjoying the wonder of God's creation. It's difficult to not hold forth in song as you work, especially anything from Brother Sun Sister Moon. But also very difficult to do so without drinking all day. I've never done such physically strenuous work during Ramadan. It helped me understand a bit of what those who physically labor go through during this month. Another benefit of the fast- the opportunity to understand what others experience.
But the best part was this evening. I had some from the Arabic Meet-Up I attend come over for f'tur, the breaking of the fast which occurs every evening at sunset. We had a traditional meal of boiled eggs, dates, coke, mint tea, and harira (which was actually lentil soup because its way way too hard to make the real thing). It was good to see Sarai there, recently returned from peace-making in Palestine, who I first met at the Multi-Meting Young Adult Friends group. We read through a children's story about a trip to the zoo, and talked about our Arab travels.
It was an extreme blessing to have them over. I so much enjoy being able to host people in my home. I couldn't do it in my old place, with it's 180 square feet. And I needed to have a minimum of furniture so that people would feel welcomed when they visited. Tonight was the first time in over a year that I've been able to have people over, and it felt...complete. This was one of the things I was designed for; this is what I was made to do.