Thursday, March 10, 2011

"As-salamu 'Alaykum..."

..."Who said that?" I thought as I reached for my shoes and bag off of the conveyor belt. I looked up to see a friendly-looking, middle-aged, white male security officer smiling at me. "Wa'alaykum As-salam," I hurriedly replied, trying to recover from my initial surprise.

A greeting of peace was extended to me today in the Nashville International Airport. I appreciated this gesture so much, I felt so welcomed by this one stranger reaching out to me. Words of kindness really are powerful.

Just before this exchange, I was directed by the security personnel to step into some sort of circular metal detector (at least I think that's what it was). I was then patted down by a female security officer (something I became accustomed to during the semester I took at divinity school class at Riverbend Maximum Security Prison). Finally, the security officer asked me to follow her to a machine that did some sort of chemical test on the gloves she used to pat me down. When everything passed the test, I was good to go. This only took about 5 extra minutes, if that.

I was thankful for the quick security check, especially since the woman checking my boarding pass and ID at the initial security point took her time looking at my license and then back at me. I'm not wearing the hijab in my license picture, and I could tell she was just being thorough. She did ask me though, "Did they make you take off your covering for the picture?" I replied no, and my mind was telling me to say, "That picture was taken before I started wearing the hijab," but instead, in my nervousness, I mumbled something about wearing it for Lent.
"Oh!" she said (just in time--I felt myself careening toward breaking rule #5) "isn't that a Jewish holiday?"
"Ah, actually, it's Christian."
"Oh, just a different type [of Christianity]," she reasoned as she let me pass.

"A different type, indeed," I thought as I got into the next line. Hopefully, this was a learning experience for me--trial by fire, which I certainly didn't pass with flying colors. However, I will resist the urge to beat myself up over this miscommunication. Gentle, loving words, Sarah...

I was also surprised that several times today I forgot that I was wearing the hijab. The closest comparison I can draw is the similar forgetfulness that happens when you wear glasses--sometimes you just forget that they're there, they just become a part of you. Catching these little moments made me smile. Can there be such a thing as mindful forgetting?

Finally, in case you are wondering where I flew to today, I am Boulder, CO. I have applied to Naropa University's Contemplative Psychotherapy MA program, and I have an admissions interview tomorrow with the department. I will also get to participate in group meditation, observe a class, and meet with current students over lunch. It will be a joy to be truly present for all of these activities.

Peace to you, whoever you are, and wherever you are this night. Salam, shalom, pax,


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