Archive | September 2015

Eid Al Adha

On Sunday, September 20th I joined the American Muslim Women’s Association of Arizona (AMWA) to host the annual Eid Mela, which is an annual tradition among AMWA. We commemorate God’s command to Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ishmael. Instead, a ram appeared in his place and Ishmael was spared. Eid Mela also honors the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, a journey made by millions of Muslims. The Hajj is one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith.

Under cloudless blue skies with an abundance of warmth, Sunday September 20th was an ideal day for Eid Mela. By 11 a.m. when the Pearl Ballroom opened its doors, vendors were ready for business selling hijabs, dresses and jewelry. Volunteers had soft drinks available for sale. Restaurant owners offered tasty dishes for lunch at a modest cost. Guests trickled in at first but by 1 p.m. the ballroom was packed. Every table was full. There wasn’t an empty spot in the parking lot. Music entertained the audience and children enjoyed games as well as face painting. Guests still paid admission half an hour before closing. By the end of the day, board members as well as volunteers were exhausted but pleased by the afternoon’s turnout. Everyone it seemed had a wonderful time. I surely did

12027095_10153680019506204_8344192271747718640_oOn Wednesday September 23rd I drove with my neighbor, friend and sister in Islam Leila to an iftar (breaking of the fast) at a local mosque. Some Muslims fast the 10 days of Eid Al Adha, some fast just the last day. We shared delicious home-made food with sisters and their children in addition to food, laughter and conversation. What a delightful way to wrap up a long tiring day.

The end to the second holiest day among Muslims was just as special. I started by driving from my apartment to the Tempe mosque. I parked, unloaded my scooter (it comes apart in 4 pieces) then rode the light rail to the Phoenix convention center, the site of the prayer service. Thousands of local Muslims gathered in unity, respect for Allah and to show support for each other. A surprise guest opened the ceremony – Mayor Greg Stanton. He shared a few words of wisdom then asked for a moment of silence to honor the pilgrims who died at the annual Hajj in Saudi Arabia in a terrible tragic accident. The Imam led us in prayer and then it was over. We gathered outside to make the good feelings last a little longer. I left to fetch my car in Tempe. Then I drove to share a joyous meal with my Afghan friends. I enjoy being with them so very much. In addition to a table loaded with scrumptious food and a house full of family and friends, there was an abundance of love. We laughed, talked, and had the best of times. I ended a very special day with my friend Naema. There was also a house full of family and friends. What a honor to be included. Before a tasty home-cooked meal, we prayed. Afterwards, we all dug in to quell grumbling in our bellies. As we adults talked and shared, children giggled and ran around. I loved every minute. I am so thankful for my friends because they are my family. Allah has blessed me in so many ways. Every day I remember to thank Allah because there are many people around the world who do not share my good fortune. Have mercy on them all.

 

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Technology and me

Technology and me

Get off the phone and drive. The red light drops to green yet the driver ahead of me hasn’t budged. Why? Her fast moving fingers are shooting off a text message, perhaps to her new boyfriend. I honk and she flips me the finger, ignoring the green turn signal. Texting or talking behind the wheel is just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. It’s a distraction, a major distraction. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 2012, around 3,300 people died because of distracted drivers. At least 420,000 were injured for the same reason. Distractions include cell phone use, texting as well as applying make-up, eating cereal or thumbing through a magazine. Yes, I’ve seen people read while driving. I change lanes as quickly as possible to get away from the readers. I trust you would too.

If my cell phone rings while I’m driving, I ignore it. I can’t hear it anyway. A ringing cell phone isn’t so important that I’ll risk my life or someone else’s to answer it. I’m not the department of public safety nor the governor’s office. The call can wait. If it can’t then too bad. Loud rock music drowns out the sound. I live in an apartment building where a turned up radio would disturb my neighbors. So when I drive I crank up the volume. Listening to the Beatles, Rolling Stones or Bob Dylan relaxes me. It protects my sanity from all the wackos on the road who speed, cut me off and dangerously change lanes. Driving itself can be a hazard.

A distracted driver ran me over in 1994 leaving me with lifelong injuries that prevent me from holding a job. I scrape by on Social Security disability. It’s a hardscrabble life. At times I’ve dug through the trash for aluminum cans to redeem for cash. I buy day old bagels. I water down shampoo and dish soap so they last longer. Nearly all my clothes are from thrift shops. I’d rather be employed and earn my own living. Is a cell phone call worth dooming someone to a life like mine? No, it’s not. I’ve made tremendous strides since leaving the rehab center but I have constant headaches. By evening, I often forgot what I did that morning. I take seizure medication because I became epileptic after head trauma. The pills make me dopy as well as sleepy so I only take them at night. Dare I complain? Hardly. There are people injured much worse than me. At least I live independently albeit in the poor house.

Technology is both a blessing and a curse. Facebook for example nurtures friendships far and wide. People from around the world are united for common causes. Unwanted animals find new homes. Money is raised for charitable causes. Cell phones enable a lost hiker to summon desperately needed help. Emails are an easy way to stay in touch with long distance friends and relatives. Technological improvements improve health care.

But there’s a dark side too. For one, children are obese because of technology. Outdoor play isn’t popular now. Instead, children huddle indoors hooked on television or busy with computer and/or video games. They miss out on sunshine and fresh air. I grew up in a densely populated working class New York City neighborhood. Nearly every family including mine lived in small cramped apartments in old crummy brick buildings. What the buildings lacked in style they made up for in character. Since indoor play area was restricted, I was outdoors all the time, even in the frigid winters. Our neighborhood gang played baseball, handball, touch football, and all kinds of sports. We rode bikes, climbed walls separating the courtyards and chased after each other up and down the block. Imagine the fun we had flipping baseball cards or riding our sleds down a hill during a snowstorm. Now and then we piled into someone’s apartment to play board games like Parcheese, Life, or Monopoly. The interaction among each other was terrific. Today’s youth walk around zombie-like holding cell phones or i Pads. I honestly don’t even know what an X box does nor do I care. Today’s youth interact with technology the way I interacted with boys and girls who laughed, cried, and shared each other’s joys as well as sorrows. Charlie, one of our playmates, lost his mother. It was as if we all lost our mom. Her death touched each one of us because Georgia was a special lady, often inviting Charlie’s friends to their apartment for cookies and milk. A child today mourns the loss of a cell phone or a computer game. He is angry if his poverty stricken parents cannot afford the latest Apple products. Children sit next to one another and text. They don’t talk or learn interpersonal skills. From my years of neighborhood sports, I learned the art of negotiation or in other words, how to get along for the good of the team. The “me” generation didn’t exist then. The world revolved around us and as the late President John F. Kennedy said, what can you do for your country?

Education today is often computerized. Is to save time and money? Be an advancement? Improve skills? What a gift to escape robot learning and walk to school each day, even during thunderstorms, punishing cold, or blistering heat. I enjoyed the camaraderie and horsing around with my friends and classmates on our way. At break time, the schoolyard was ours to run around, scream, yell or play ball. Teachers barked out orders to get along or get in line when the bell rang, a signal break time was over. Computerized learning doesn’t offer a hearty game of tag or the chance to shoot a few hoops with friends and classmates at lunch hour. Classroom discussion about the latest political issue broadened my outlook. It taught me about critical thinking especially as I listened to other points of view. Teachers encouraged us to read a daily newspaper. On line learning deprives students of the back and forth array of opinions with the professor serving as moderator. Sadly, computer learning seems like it’s the future. My two college degrees were earned the old fashioned way through hard work, reading, writing, discussion and actually looking up research in the library. I interviewed real people. Some assignments were completed in groups. Other times we reported a semester’s worth of work to the class. I didn’t “Google” anything.

Technology will one day take away the printed word. Bookstores will shutter as will newsstands. I hope by then I am dead and gone. I cannot imagine a world where there is no newspaper the morning to go with my cup of coffee. Browsing through a bookstore is one of my favorite activities. The public library is a treasure. If you object to paying taxes for the library, we cannot possibly be friends. I’ve loved the library since I was a child, devouring books about anything and everything. I’m reading a library book now.

Technology has its place. It serves an extremely useful function in society. I appreciate its power to improve our lives but I also fear its massive power to destroy as well. There’s nothing more satisfying that sitting down with a friend and having a heart to heart discussion over a home-cooked meal. No computer will ever replace the human touch, ever.

 

The American Worker

Tribute to the American Worker

Politicians allege that Americans are lazy; they don’t work hard enough. How would they know? While they bicker and claw at each other like feral cats and decide on nothing, the nation’s infrastructure crumbles. Bridges collapse from lack proper maintenance. The gasoline tax hasn’t been raised in decades because politicians are too unyielding and won’t look at the reality of our decrepit roads. Corporations still pollute rivers and streams with barely a slap on the wrist. Compared to China, our train system is archaic. But do they care? They’re too busy holding their hands out to big donors and cozying up to lobbyists like the NRA, AIPAC, Wall Street, big pharma, and the list goes on and on. Gasbags like Donald Trump says he wants to make America great again. Open your eyes Mr. Trump. America is already great without your help or the US Congress.

The American worker is far from lazy. Check out traffic patterns on local highways and public transportation at rush hour. They’re jam packed with men and women commuting to and from work often for a measly paycheck without benefits. Companies can squeeze out more profits by hiring contract workers rather than full-time employees. Middle class workers have earned meager checks because it’s cheaper for companies manufacture goods overseas, a discovery made decades ago. Some commuters are students preparing for the workforce while at the same time carrying the onerous burden of student loans because the US government doesn’t believe in supporting higher education. State and federal government would rather invest in war, private prisons and weapons of mass destruction.

You think the American worker is shiftless? Let me tell you about some people I know who work at the airport where I volunteer. Due to the paucity of well paying middle class jobs, many people hustle with two jobs in the service sector. After putting in a full day at one day, they change clothes and report to a second job. Some hold two full-time jobs because the cost of rent, car payments, food, child care, insurance, etc. is just too out of hand. Wealthy people are quick to say why have children you cannot afford? Raising a family should always be based on love first.

Celebrate the American worker today because the US government probably won’t nor will most employers. OK, some businesses may appreciate their workers but most care only about the bottom line. The American worker is great because we have to be. We cannot depend on the US government nor can we depend on corporations. They’re the ones with their hands out, not the American worker. We will survive because we’re strong, tough, honest, and smart. That’s the American worker. I was once a proud American worker but a pedestrian car accident on 1/6/94 robbed me of my ability to earn a living. I keep connected through volunteer work. I salute the American worker today on Labor Day 2015. And lastly, parts of the American workforce would collapse without immigrant labor, legal as well as undocumented. I salute you too.