Fearless Holy Day Greetings

On Sept 1, as I was scrolling through Facebook, I came across a friend’s post that described the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. It celebrates the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ismaeel as an act of obedience to God. Before he is successful, though, an angel, Jibra’il, put a ram in the son’s place and a great celebration was commenced for Ibrahim’s sacrifice. As I read this, I was touched by the very similar story of Abraham and Isaac from my Christian Old Testament. It reminded me, again, how we are more like our new-to-country-neighbors than we are different.

This friend continued to say that a proper greeting to Muslim neighbors would be Eid Mubarak. I have lots of Muslim neighbors. Could I have the social courage to say such a simple phrase to my neighbors?

At first, I’ll admit, I was hesitant.

What if I said it wrong? I asked my friend how to pronounce it (“Ee-d Moo-Bar-eck”). That eliminated that self-made obstacle!

What if they ask me what I mean?

What if they say, “How dare you wish us that when you’re not Muslim?” I thought about how I would feel if they wished me Merry Christmas: happy, pleased, welcomed.

So, on my nightly walk around the pond, I told myself to just try it! A lot of my neighbors walk around the pond with me. For years, we have passed the standard pleasantries – usually a simple Hello or How are you? or Nice night! I’ve watched them and listened to them work hard to get these standard American greetings down. Tonight was my night to see what it felt like to greet someone in another language, with a phrase that wasn’t 100% clear to me in the first place.

As I approached the pond, the first person I crossed paths with was a well-dressed young man, looking at his phone as he walked. He gave me a quick look and an even quicker hello. I blurted out (much too loudly) “Eid Mubarek!!” It took a half second to register, but he stopped, looked up from his phone, looked me in the eye and laughed a friendly laugh with me. “Eid Mubarek! Very nice!” he said back and I watched him walk away with a smile.

Next came a group of teen girls. They giggled and talked with their arms interlinked. As they approached me, they all looked at me and smiled and said hi. I smiled back: “Eid Mubarek!” They stopped, looked at each other and giggled some more and one said “Thank you.”

I continued to walk around our little pond, greeting many groups of women with “Eid Mubarek.” Each time the women halted in their steps, looked at each other, and I watched as large smiles come across their faces. They would then laugh and smile at me with some of the most beautiful smiles.

I felt like a child who had learned to ride her bike and wanted to show off my skills to everyone so that I could see the delight on their faces. I felt my heart practically explode with gladness just by learning these 2 little words and making my neighbors smile – hopefully, conveying a sense of welcome.

So, I ask you: what can you do to #knowyourneighbor? What simple little step can you take today that may grow into a bridge? It can truly be as simple as two words.