On Thanksgiving, Thanks Given to a Gazan Taxi-Driver
I have never celebrated Thanksgiving, nor have I given its concept much thought, for I, being a Muslim, need not a special day to give my thanks to Allah to Whom I am eternally and immensely grateful for His countless blessings and abundant bounties bestowed on me, so it’s always Alhamdulillah, whatever time. Nonetheless, it wouldn’t do us –as Muslims –any harm if we shared this day with our friends, giving thanks to whomever we owe much gratitude. For me, I’d like to give my special thanks to a Gazan taxi-driver for what he did last Thursday, a day that coincides with the one of Thanksgiving.
I think the story, albeit its simplicity, is worth telling at a time when the world has deemed honesty and integrity old-fashioned virtues. If the world has run out of these values, Gaza hasn’t yet. The story goes that my friends (Shahd, my Gazan friend; Lydia de Leeuw, my Dutch friend; and Mack, my Greek friend) and I paid a visit to al-Sammouni who lost almost 30 members of their extended family during the Israeli-brutal war on Gaza in late December 2008. The idea of visiting the family was actually initiated by our Greek friend, Mack, who stands firmly in support of Palestine in general and Gaza in particular, to say goodbye to the family to whom he has grown very attached through his frequent visits.
After we had much fun playing with the kids, laughing and taking photos, we took our leave while watching the sad faces of the kids who entreated us to prolong the visit. We wished we could. Mack was travelling the very next day and his goodbye was as hard on the kids as it was on us all. He loves Gaza and he is loved back by Gaza. I’ve seen him talk, with much love and affection, with children peddling their wares on streets. I’ve felt his warmth as he clutched the kids tightly to his tender heart. I’ve witnessed his kindness while one of the as-Sammouni children held his hand firmly while Mack was standing across the threshold, waving his tearful goodbye with a promise he’d come back to Gaza soon enough. I felt compelled to digress for a moment as a token of my gratitude to this man; though, I would do him an injustice if I mentioned him merely through these few lines which were meant to be not about the good Mack yet about the still-anonymous taxi-driver.
Back to where I stopped to digress, since the place was far away from where we live, we decided to take a street taxi to drive each home. On our way, Mack wanted to visit a Christian family whose daughter happens to be studying in Greece. As the taxi pulled over, Mack asked me and Lydia to accompany him to introduce us to such a wonderful family. They were extremely wonderful, indeed. We enjoyed our wide-ranging, quick talk about a number of miscellaneous things, ending with an interesting conversation between Lydia, who wholeheartedly boycotts Israeli products, and the father who wanted to sell us Israeli products from his shop. Amused at Lydia’s adamant attitudes against the racist occupation, I can’t but applaud her for being such a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause. As we soon realized that we had to leave instantly since we promised the taxi-driver that we wouldn’t be long; though we were, the Christian mom handed Mack two plastic bags to give to her daughter. We hurried back to the taxi while Lydia and I were still negotiating an apology whether we had or didn’t have to make to the taxi-driver for the delay. We made no apologizes, however. It sounded a bit unfamiliar to find a taxi-driver in a very relaxed manner, not angry at all, waiting patiently for us, given that it’s the norm that taxi-drivers are the angry young men of Gaza. Even if there was nothing to be angry with, they’d be angry with themselves, probably angry at being taxi-drivers.
Exhausted yet high-spirited, I arrived home. After a little while, a message from Mack interrupted my train of thoughts flooding my congested mind which was still quite taken with the as-Sammouni adorable kids.
Darling, there has been an idiotic mishap. I forgot the stuff the Christian family gave me in the trunk of the taxi. There is a teeny-weeny chance that he will feel honest and bring them by your place. Just letting you know.
Oops! I will let you know the moment I, hopefully, have them. Let’s pray and hope
I appreciate the prayers, though I am not in the habit myself.
Never mind. I’ll pray myself.
I hope your relation to [God] is great.
Me: ( bragging)
Yes, it is. My prayers to Him are usually answered.
Ah, good, skip the bags business, and petition for the liberation of Palestine instead.
Me: ( detailing my own religious philosophy)
Well, God responds to those who have strong faith in him and those who show hard-work and commitment. Like a student, you won’t get a good satisfying grade unless you show your teacher your hard work and commitment, right? Precious things aren’t easily granted. Palestine is worth the struggle. We need first to get united, to show commitment, to work hard on our cause; only then God will help us out…. Pause! What the hell am I talking about! You dragged me into religion and politics all at one! Insha’Alah, the taxi-driver will be at my place by tomorrow.
Oh my God! How could I be so assured that the driver “WILL”, not “might”, be at “MY” place, not at Lydia’s nor at Shahd’s and Mack’s, and “BY TOMORROW”. I was confidently adamant. Wouldn’t it have been better if I said at least “maybe he’ll”? I turned my heart to Allah and asked him to accept my prayers as He always does. Mack was leaving the early morning. He had promised the Christian mom that the bags would be safely delivered to her daughter. The possibility that we could have the stuff back by the next day was slight since the taxi-driver was totally anonymous to us all. Had we ordered a taxi from a recognized place, the conflict would be easily resolved. However, I prayed, hopefully. I put all my trust in Allah, and I am undoubtedly convinced that that whatever tomorrow would bring us, He knows what’s best for us.
The very next day, I happened to have an eventful day at my work as I had to meet up with the students’ parents to discuss their kids’ levels and grades. Being chaotically busy, I abruptly realized that I should have left a message at home. In no time, I sent my family a message translated as “You shall be informed that a taxi-driver will come to our place today bringing me some stuff. Let me know once you have them.” Again, I seemed to have made another grammatical mistake by using “will” instead of “might”. In fact, I didn’t. Trust knows no doubt. And, I trusted, still trust, none but Allah. Few minutes later, my dad called to inform me of the long-awaited good news, that the taxi-driver did come and bring the two bags, untouched. A surge of delight swept over me, and I found myself reiterating “Alhamdulillah” over and over again. I instantly called Mack who was on his way heading to the border.
Unbelievably thrilled, Mack reversed back to my place to get the stuff.
Right away, Mack sent me:
“Package retrieved and all ok. Alhamdulillah”
I sent back:
“You need to start thinking of trusting my prayers. I am so proud of the taxi-driver. I wish I could meet him again to reward him. Gaza hasn’t yet run of honest people. Alhamdulillah”
Mack texted back:
“Honesty will never [perish], and God rewards the faithful and upright. I never doubted you, my friend.”
PS. Mack and the kids