Imam Khalid Latif is blogging his reflections during the month of Ramadan for the third year in a row, featured daily on HuffPost Religion. For a complete record of his previous posts, click over to the Islamic Center at New York University or visit his author page, and to follow along with the rest of his reflections, sign up for an author email alert above, visit his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.
One of the hardest experiences in my career thus far came when I was working with a young man who had a mental health condition that made it difficult for him to focus. He found himself not doing so well in school and as the condition worsened so too did his ability to keep up with his day-to-day tasks. Once he was actually diagnosed and realized what was happening, his coming to terms with it fluctuated. He found himself agreeable to seeking professional help some days and other days he found himself denying he had a condition or that he needed treatment for. Rather, he was fully able to handle things himself.
As his scholarships were taken away because of his poor academic record, he started to grasp at whatever he could to make things work. I remember sitting with his mother and father for hours trying to explain to them what was happening and running into roadblock after roadblock of outright denial. "Our son doesn't have a problem. There's nothing wrong with him." I replied, "Yes, there isn't anything wrong with him." And after a while, they finally got it.
With the victory though of getting passed the stigmas came the bitter realization that this young man was no longer able to stay matriculated in his school. His grades had become so poor and his debt so high, the school he attended told him he could no longer state. I remember sitting him the last time I ever saw him and tears were coming to his eyes. He wanted to stay so badly and given the circumstances really did whatever he could, but it just didn't work. I'll never forget when he asked me so sincerely, "How do you know when you've actually failed? How do you know that no matter what, it just won't work and you should give up?" His only failure would have come if he let that be where he ended.
It can be really tough when things don't go the way that we expect them to. Marriages don't work, jobs are lost, exams are failed, and instance after instance results not in victory, but seemingly in defeat. Our goodness though should not be attributed to merely going strong when everything is going our way. Real strength is demonstrated when we get back on our feet after we have fallen, and real goodness when we help someone who has fallen stand again. Sometimes things don't work out the way we want them to, but it doesn't mean they don't work out in some way. And sometimes when we get pushed, we have to push back.
This young man struggled and learned to live within the reality that he was given. He gained solid support from real friends. It has taken him many more years, but he is determined to finish his degree and now is almost complete. His journey did not go exactly the way he hoped, but it did not stop him from continuing in his journey. He is an inspiration to me and I remember him often when I hit my own dead ends and have to figure out a way to get back on track.
In a few days Ramadan will be over and everything that came with it will potentially be gone except that which we carry with us. Challenges will come and they will be that much more challenging. It'll be tougher to fast, but you should still fast. It will be harder to eat and pray together with friends, but you still should. It will be more difficult to give to those in need, but your giving should never stop. It will not be same, but you also are not the same. Don't give in and make the determination from now. Take with you what you will from Ramadan, it's yours to take. But don't give it up so easily, especially at the first sign of a challenge, regardless of its form. You deserve more than that -- don't expect anything less.