A few days ago, I went to a rehabilitation clinic and held in the tears that threatened to flow down my cheeks.
Just a few moments earlier, I was reflecting on hardships that I was facing and how preposterous certain situations were. As the person I was with parked the car, I walked out and entered a building that wasn’t extravagantly built. It looked like a small apartment building. As we walked towards the elevator, I couldn’t help but notice a strange smell- not quite the hospital smell, but there was something in the air that told the visitor this was not a place of pretty fragrances and perfumes. As I looked behind me, I saw the “recreation room”- a bunch of tables with bingo cards, a TV, a few bookshelves. All around the room were people in wheelchairs (the normal kind), crutches, beds that were on wheels.
I turned back waiting for the elevator. As we entered the elevator, I began to get a bit nervous. It’s been years since I volunteered at a hospital. And even then, I never faced anything remotely scary. I worked in the mother/baby unit, and the most heartbreaking thing I ever saw was babies who were deaf- but I never saw those in intensive care (all but once) or anything that might hurt my heart.
As the woman beside me walked into the “cafeteria”- another simple room with tables and a TV- I hesitated a bit. She strode up to a man whose back faced us and leaned over the edge of the chair-“Ya Mohamed- Salam Alaikum.” The man seemed to be sleeping in his wheelchair. I stood outside of the room, not knowing what to do. She eventually woke him up and said she was going to take him downstairs to the nurse in the room. She looked at me and said to him- “Salim ala Munzareen.” She motioned for me to come over in front of him because he could not turn all the way to where I stood. I smiled and said salam. Wondering if he would be confused as to who I was. Wondering if he felt as awkward as I did. I was a visitor he did not know. Someone completely foreign. Would he be upset? “Wa alaikum as salaam wa rahmatullah,” he said. His eyes sparkled and instantly I thought he was a beautiful man. You could see his beautiful spirit lying in that chair. It was amazing.
We took him downstairs to play bingo. I didn’t want to sit down but the woman I was with asked me to. I sat in that chair, wanting to cry. How was I so insensitive and selfish? A few days earlier I was telling my sister on the phone that I was so bored that day because I had no siblings that lived close by to play volleyball with or go biking with. My friends were at work or busy with their families. My father was sleeping in his room and my mother was at work. I was bored and longed to do something. And I at that moment didn’t want to read the books on my shelf or listen to a lecture. I wanted to have something more. I wanted to enjoy the beautiful weather. And I snapped back into reality and saw those around me and wondered how I could ever think my life was boring. I have so much around me to do. What did these people have? Some couldn’t walk. Some had emotional disorders. None of them had family living with them. Did their families visit every day? Did they enjoy watching tv? I have been reacting negatively towards tv especially recently because it’s just there to fill a void- but it still leaves me empty. How did they feel when they could not really enjoy the outside world but were playing bingo inside? What did they do when “bored?” And I had the audacity to claim I was bored? My life- Alhamdulillah- has so much in it. So much I could be doing. And on top of that, I live in America. I have everything I could desire. I can walk. I can ride a bike. I can drive. I can get to places I want to- for the most part. I can watch tv, go to the movies, read books, go to the library, surf the Internet. I have so much to do.
I looked at the woman talking to Mohamed. She was calling his family back home so he could talk to them. It broke my heart. How can I ever complain when I have much more than other people? I felt silly. I felt completely worthless because on the car ride to this place, the woman had asked me a question and in my head I was thinking about a hardship that wasn’t really hard- it just required more effort to be put into it. I felt like the most ungrateful servant because I did not think in my head- Alhamdulillah. Allah put me in this situation so I can strive harder. For that moment in the car, had I died- I would not have been thanking my Lord. I would have been thinking, “Why me?” Or maybe “Why now?” Or anything else- but not “Thank God!” I was not thinking that my Lord was only testing me and my faith. I was not thinking that a soul is never given more than it could bear. And it made me want to get up and leave. How arrogant is the one who does not thank the one who gives him gift after gift, blessing after blessing without decrease?
My Lord has given me the strength to live every day. He has maintained my body in equilibrium so that my heart beats properly, my limbs function correctly, my brain receives signals and responds correctly. He has given me intellect. He has given me family, has given me wealth. He has bestowed upon me bounty after bounty and I am ungrateful. Should not we lament our states? Our tears may shed because we feel we have been wronged. But we wrong no one but ourselves. Let us not look at our sadness and lack of having everything we desire. Let us become proactive and take what we have and work with it. Let us not be ungrateful.
The Prophet (may peace and blessings upon him) used to pray and fast and do supererogatory works. He was GUARANTEED Paradise. “Should I not be a grateful servant?” was his answer.
What guarantee do we have? None!
Should we not recognize the opportunities we have been given and use what we have to our advantage?
Later on that day, I saw a picture of Mohamed when he was younger. Beautiful man. The picture was only 20 years old ( I think he was 30 something in the picture). I thought that this is exactly what I am. I am in my youth. I need to use this opportunity to do the work that I can. I have more mental acuteness than I will when I am old. I have more physical strength. I have much more now than I will 30 years down the road.
When we were in the elevator, Mohamed told the woman I was with that I was his daughter. He had not lost his memory. It was not as sharp as it once was, but he referred to me as one of his own. It moved me so much. A man who didn’t know me yet he already sensed a bond. The woman later told me that he has never referred to anyone as his daughter like that. When we parted, he didn’t want me to leave. As I felt the whole day.. I wanted to cry. This man had nothing compared to what I had, yet he made do. He barely spoke to me, yet he appreciated that I was there. He was content and happy with whatever little he had. Yet, so many of us have everything we want and we’re still not satisfied. Our appetites cannot be satiated when we do not have self fulfillment and when we ignore the blessings that have been bestowed upon us.
“Which of the favors of Your Lord will you deny?”- Surah Rahman
Insha’Allah we can all realize the amazing gifts we have been given and be possessors of grateful hearts and thankful tongues.