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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

How I Learned About Ramadan

A few weeks ago, the counselor asked me out on a date.
I love when my husband asks me out on a date! 
He said, “Hey, do you want to go on a date with me?” 
I hesitated, just to flirt. 
This is really good for marriages, to still play a little hard to get.
“Ok,” I said, batting my eyelashes.  “Were do you want to go?”

Let me flashback for a moment.
When we were in Anaheim, California last December, we found the most amazing Middle Eastern restaurant and we ate there every day four days in a row.  The food, with the falafel, hummus, purple onion, olives, tabouli . . . Oh My Gosh!!!! We were in Anaheim to take the kids to Disneyland, but we walked out of the park every day to go to this amazing restaurant.  Let’s just say we’ve both been craving this delicious food every since. 

So, for our date, the counselor suggested we find the best Middle Eastern food in Phoenix.  And, he’d done his research.  When this man sets his mind to something, he follows through. 

Tempe, AZ has a restaurant called Princess Market and we were on our way.  We arrived around 6:45pm for dinner and found the restaurant quiet.  We walked up to the counter and the hostess suggested the buffet.  She escorted us to a wall of the most exquisite food; salad with feta and tomatoes, beautiful rice, meats, hummus, kabobs, roasted peppers and onions, tahini, and more.  The only caveat?  Dinner would not be served until sundown, around 7:30pm.  “Find a seat while you can,” she said. “It’s sure to be packed tonight.” 

The counselor and I looked around and besides the hostess and a few waiters, there was not another soul in sight.  Still, we found our seats, grabbed Canyon a high chair and sat back and waited. I’d been fasting for the day and although I was hungry, I felt a bit out of my element.  I wasn’t about to tell the hostess I’d been fasting and wanted to eat at this very moment. I’ve developed some self-control around food and have learned hunger does not mean starving.  I assumed the buffet was not ready because the chef had not brought out all the prepared food, but I was mistaken.  Something else was going on.  The counselor and I watched over the next 30 minutes as the restaurant filled up with families, couples and friend, all of Middle Eastern descent.  Many were wearing traditional Muslim apparel and I realized the counselor and I were the only couple not dressed as such.  All sat quietly until, not even the children spoke when at one defining moment, everyone got up, grabbed a plate and hustled to the buffet. 

The line was long and somebody bumped into me, spilling a warm orange soup down my leg, but whatever.  It reached in-between the toes of my sandals and I was walking in a squishy mess, but I wanted to eat. I have a baby so I'm used to eating in a somewhat turbulent environment, so it wasn’t something I don’t experience on a daily basis and let me tell you, the food was so worth the wait.  I sat down with a plate of food and that first bite was full of flavor and goodness.  The food was so good, we just made sounds like “eemmmm” and “yummmmm.”  We didn’t even speak.  I went back for seconds.  Canyon’s little hand continued to scoop up food I placed in front of him.  It was the most silent atmosphere I’ve ever eaten in, but just like the other customers, the counselor and I barely came up for air.  This primal environment was unusual, so when the waiter walked by, I had to ask “What’s going on here?” 

“It’s the month of Ramadan,” he said.  “Everybody has been fasting all day.”
Wait, what?  Fasting!!

“As part of our religions, we fast for 30 days from sun up to sun down,” he said and I could barely believe what I was hearing.  Fasting, religious fasting, a practice God told me to do for 30-days (although I’ve continued to do it now for over 6 months), an experience that has completely changed my life, that has made me more aware of the poor and those who go without, practice more self-control, be more grateful for what I have – all these beautiful people were experiencing the same thing.  Everybody was fasting!  I wanted to hug every single one of them.  I’ve never felt more validated.  Wow!  Fasting is awesome and these people get it. 

To learn more about Ramadan, click here.

When my belly was nice and full, I did a lot of people watching.  I watched as a mother helped her child, a couple sit in silence sipping tea, young men eating plate after plate of warm chicken and hummus and I was grateful and still quite shocked that I had the opportunity to observe and understand the beauty of this month-long religious holiday. 

My brother Sam recently went with Lifting Hands International to Greece and took food and supplies to the Syrian refugees.  

He too, had dinner with wonderful Muslim people and came home with more appreciation for who they are and what they are going through.  

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