Keeping An Eye On Your Neighbors

There is no doubt we live in disturbing times. From acts of public violence, international (and perhaps even national) drone strikes and of course the ever looming economic woes, it’s easy to put one’s head in the sand. After all, how can any one of us solve these immense problems? And while it is true that no single one of us is likely to bring the Syrians peace or end hunger in Chad, we need not neglect the opportunities right under our collective noses: our neighbors.

Living in a city like Philadelphia, the rich and the not-so-rich often occupy similar spaces: public transportation for one. Neighborhoods are buttressed up against one another where a block that is considered “sketchy” often transforms into a gentrified urban paradise within a matter of a block or two. Living this modern life allows me glances and vignette’s into other people’s lives. But what is not so apparent for many of us are the lives that get little media attention and play, which is why I was reminded and relieved about a story broadcast on NPR today, during their All Things Considered segment about seniors and what these new sequester cuts will mean for them. In the story, an 82-year-old woman, tells how she depends on charitable services like Meals on Wheels just to be able to eat. It was a very touching story, one we do not hear often enough: how our seniors live.

Like many of you, my inbox is flooded with requests for this or that charity, particularly for Muslim charities. While I have no truck with these charitable organizations, so much of the American Muslim imagination is projected “overseas.” This is not to detract to those genuine needs (I myself contribute to them on a regular basis) but we should also not forget the need, and the good, we could be doing here. You may be thinking to yourself, “but I already give to x, y and z charity.” It’s simple, if we as a community — one which has been blessed with tremendous wealth as the Pew study showed us — then it’s not so much the individual contributions but the collective one. After having spoken with representatives from such organizations as Philadelphia Corporation for the Aging, it’s not the single huge amounts that make the impact, but medium or even small ones does consistently. This makes full sense given what our Prophet ﷺ said about deeds:

‏أحب العمال إلى الله تعالى أدومها وإن قلّ‏

“The acts most pleasing to God are those which are done continuously, even if they are small.” – Prophet quoted by ‘A’ishah from Sahih Muslim.

Perhaps MSA’s could have a monthly bake sale that could take those proceeds and donate them to a local charity. Mosques could also have monthly donation programs in which small sums could be collected from attendees. These ideas are suggestive and not meant to be exhaustive. Rather, it’s my hope we’ll spend some time individually and collectively thinking of creative ways we can all give more though many of us have less. Some food to think about the next time I — we — sit down to a table that’s spread with more than enough food for us to eat.

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