Monthly Archives: November 2015

A Muslim Saved My Life

As far as many people are concerned these days, there’s little room for debate on anything.  If you agree with something, you agree wholeheartedly with no questions or doubts. If you don’t, every fiber of your being is against it. You apparently have to be an “extremist” to have your opinion count on any issue.

That seems to be the case when it comes to the world’s current refugee problem. At least when it comes to the solutions our leaders have to offer us. The truth of the matter is that most people who have truly taken time to consider the conundrum were in fall around the middle. No one really wants to turn aside people in true need – no matter their background. And no one wants to be conned into complicity by terrorists.

When I was in high school, my German language class traveled to Germany on the ultimate field trip. It was about six months after the Berlin Wall “came down.” It was also handy to the time of the Lockerbie air plane crash. 

On the way home, in the shuffle of 20 something high school kids getting into the Berlin airport, through customs and to the right gate in a foreign language, a friend of mine lost his ticket and boarding pass. Our chaperone, a Catholic Marianist Brother, and my friend appealed to the airline to reissue – the ticket was paid for, the seat reserved as part of an educational package. It was just a piece of paper that was lost.

Airline officials in Germany were already dealing with air port security issues then, in 1990. Americans really had no idea why there were soldiers in the terminal with large guns. The airline didn’t want to let my friend on the plane. After quite sometime and probably some serious Catholic guilt from our teacher, the airline acquiesced – if my friend agreed to check everything he was carrying straight through to the States. I still remembering him fretting over expensive Germab beer steins he was taking home for family.

My friend is Middle Eastern. I’d say he’s Muslim, but I’m not really sure how active he is in the religion. I know when we were in Catholic school together (yes, you read that right) his older brother was trying to learn more about Islam. I remember him attempting to fast during Ramadan once and speaking to my world religion class about the amazing fatigue he felt. To make matters more interesting, my friend with the lost ticket had  a variety of health problems that made him look closer to 30 than 16.

I “speak” with my friend still over Facebook. He’s an American. Like those Muslims you hear about who serve dutifully in the US Armed Forces. We have interesting conversations about the refugees. He reminds me not all Muslims are part of or agree with ISIS, Al-Quida, Boko Haram, or any other extremist group. I remind him that people like me fear for the lives and future freedom of our children. Shutting the door, so to speak, doesn’t sound bad to us. 

We think about ways to separate Middle Easterners, Americans of Middle Eastern descent, and peaceful (yes, some are) Muslims in people’s minds from Muslim extremists. Almost two decades of PR experience and I’m stymied on that one. Our leaders need to think as hard as we are. There must be something between turning our backs on refugees, and allowing the fox into the hen house in the name of morality. 

Today, I remembered something that kicked me right onto the fence on refugees, from what on Saturday was a lock the door and throw away the key stance.

Just a little less than three years ago, I almost lost my life to a heart attack brought on by diabetic ketoacidosis. Not only did I survive, I am again thriving. The doctor who saved my life on the operating table with almost no damage to my heart, and who has sustained me, is a Muslim.

Not everyone is dangerous. But some certainly are. Which are you?

Teach Your ParentsĀ 

A few years back, before love, marriage and children rudely interrupted, I was working with my favorite client on a profile of her company. One afternoon, we were meeting with a freelance writer and the conversation turned to children and parenthood. 

The writer asked if I had kids. I was just newly married and still honeymooning. He remarked that I would understand the conversation better when I had some. I was incredibly offended. What could a child teach me about life? I was finally an official adult – on my own, a good man at my side, making my own choices. I knew how life worked.

I’d like to give that 20-something me a whack to the back of the head. Now, I do indeed get it.

Children. Change. Everything.

It’s not cliche. It’s truth.

Catholics often talk about the power of giving one’s life for another, as Jesus did. I’m never going to achieve that level of love-giving, but I think being a parent is as close to that as I may ever come. It’s not about death and dying for love. It’s about putting yourself last and someone else first -not in the same way you do with a man or woman you love, but in making someone else’s life your responsibility.

Parenting is one of the greatest opportunities God gives us to “die to self.” I think this is the reason many (not all) people today don’t want children. I personally never really understood this concept until I was faced with it directly. When you have a child, you decide if she lives or dies, thrives or struggles, eats or starves. If you truly love the child, you put its needs before all of yours – physical, emotional, spiritual, social.

I have wrestled with this and continue to fight demons of self-centeredness everyday. That’s another blog post. But my daughters have changed me in ways I never dreamed possible. For instance, if you’ve known me a long time, you might be surprised how conservative I’ve become. I know I am. Eight short years ago, I was lobbying friends to vote for Hillary Clinton. I thought she’d be a good president because she was a mother. Today, I wouldn’t vote for her for all the money in the world because I’m a mother. 

Two high-risk pregnancies that required sonograms every two weeks taught me to hate abortion. The horror of 9/11 taught me the fragility of our freedoms. Having had my career destroyed by office politics and watching my girls face bullies as early as preschool has me instilling a healthy caution about others’ motives.

My kids hear about American history more than they want to – I demand they understand how regular people sacrificed and struggled for what they take for granted. Recently, I beamed with pride when my daughter started her own petition for something she wanted to see happen in her school. My husband and I are what some people call strict – not because we’re mean, but because we care. We’re trying to raise respectful Catholic Americans.

Sunday morning, after the sting of ISIS’s attacks on Paris, my eyes welled talking to my Deacon after Mass. I told him I wasn’t sure I could explain the world away to my children any longer. I was angry that my younger daughter had been scared of ISIS even before Paris – now she doesn’t want to sleep. At Catholic school they’re taught to love others. What would they think if they knew some considered them “extremists” not unlike terrorists? My older daughter asked me why no one is protecting the people of the world. I had no answer. And she has no faith in our leaders.

I want ISIS dealt with. I want fiscal responsibility from my elected officials. I want people in my country to stop blaming other people for their problems. I want them to stop claiming ownership of what other people earn. I want respect for all life and all belief systems – even the ones I don’t like. But most of all, I want the ideals of America preserved for my children, so they may live free and safe. 

And should my girls decide in their teens or early 20s to eschew the more traditional values we are using to sustain them into adulthood, well, so be it. We all rebel as we grow – I know I did and my parents are why I survived.  I will no longer hold responsibility for the girls’ lives when they’re grown. It will hurt to see them struggle. They too will have their own experiences and will think they get it just fine, thank you.

Should they have children of their own, they may also find the need to step up their game, as I did. It’s our own experiences after all that teach us to be cautious when someone else’s life and future are in our unsteady hands. Loving another person more than yourself, wanting someone to have it better than you had, makes some of us, even the rebels, seek tradition, truth, and stability.