I’m Muslim

I greet you from the other side of sorrow and despair
With a love so vast and shattered it will reach you everywhere. -Leonard Cohen

We left several hours earlier in order to miss the morning traffic to the Hollywood Airport. Maribel and I were so excited. The day of our retreat had finally arrived. With five people in our van, we got on the expressway and felt pure joy. Five miles or so from the airport, I noticed the tire pressure light go on. I slowly moved to the right lane and within a minute or so, I realized we had a flat.

In 10 years of driving our van, I had never had to change the tire. I didn’t even know where the spare was. Because we left with so much time, I was not panicking. After looking at the manual we figured out where the spare was, got it out, and started to work on the tire.

But there was no way I was able to remove the lug nuts. Inexperience and being a light weight yogi did not help. We called AAA and were told that it would take an hour or more. We took the news in stride and began our waiting process. We put cones out behind us to provide a little protection from the incoming traffic. The cars whizzed by us.

Fifteen minutes into our mindful waiting, an SUV pulled up in front of us and very strong looking black man got out and offered assistance. I was more than grateful. Using his extra weight, he was able to remove the lug nuts and we put on the spare. I was feeling good when we realized that the spare did not have enough air. We were back to square one.

By this time I learned that our helper worked security in the Beach. He had just dropped off his kids at school and was on his way to meet a friend for coffee. He worked the night shift. His name was Pierre.

I figured that was that and we would wait for AAA. But that’s not what happened. Pierre quickly went to his car and took out a portable air pump. He dialed in the correct pressure. Five minutes later, we were ready to go.

As he was putting his tools away, I offered to give him some money as a token of gratitude, but he immediately said no. I said what came naturally to me, “God bless you.” I meant it sincerely.

He then turned to me and said, “I’m Muslim.”

I don’t know why he said that, but his words were refreshing. Without much of a thought, my response was Allahu Akbar, the great Muslim acclamation of God, said in gratitude for the blessings being received. He smiled, got in his car, and drove away.

The rest of the weekend I kept thinking of Pierre. He saved our trip and potentially our lives as we were stranded in a very busy side of the expressway.

Weeks later, I was jogging in my neighborhood and saw an older man with car trouble. He looked slightly disoriented and was waiting for AAA. He told me he lived a couple of blocks away. I offered to push his car and ended pushing longer than I thought. A couple of blocks turned out to be about eight blocks away. By the time I got to his house, I was drenched in sweat, my legs were on fire, but all I could think about was Pierre, his generosity, hospitality, and goodness. I was smiling deep inside.

By the time we got to the house, the man offered to pay me. “No need, my brother,” I responded, “Peace be upon you.” And under my breath I whispered, Salaam Aleikum and thanked God for all of the people like Pierre and millions others who are generous, kind, hospitable, and good. We may use different words to describe the Divine, but when it comes down to changing a tire or pushing a car, we speak the same language and know the same Source.

Wishing everyone a renewed heart-mind, strong faith, and the experience of love that knows no words, differences, or obstacles, remembering that Love is the map, the road, the fuel, and the vehicle!

Happy travels!

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