Imam Khalid Latif is blogging his reflections during the month of Ramadan, 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 e-mail alert above, visit his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.
Sometimes it's hard for us to realize the important role we play in the lives of those around us because we get caught up in the big things. We see the world as a dismal place because we think we don't really bring value to anyone, and most of the time we are wrong. I would argue that many of us actually do a lot for the people around us, but we have a hard time realizing how important little things are. We fail to see the benefit in the small things we do, and this in large part is due to our inability to see the all the things that take place around us that might be small in nature, but large in value. We then fail to embrace the feeling of contentment that is rendered from the appreciation of these small acts, adding more to that which prevents us from seeing what we in fact can offer. A good place to start would be with those that do for us that we sometimes overlook.
"Never belittle any good deed." ~ The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him
A story that I was told when I was younger involved a college student who was given an exam by his professor. The exam was quite easy and the student went through it with no issue until he reached the last question that asked, "What is the name of the woman who cleans the classrooms every day?" The student can picture the woman in his mind, as he sees her everyday. She cleans the rooms, takes out the garbage that he and other students have accumulated, and much more. But why would he know her name?
He turns in the exam with that question unanswered and another student then asks the professor if that question will count towards the final grade on the exam. The professor says that of course it will. He goes on to tell the entire class that throughout their lives they will meet many different people, all of whom should be considered significant. Each one deserves attention, a smile, and acknowledgement of what they do, even if from a simple hello.
The student carried that with him for quite some time and always remembered the name of that cleaning woman.
We all probably have people like this in our lives. Those who we have not thanked properly or acknowledged. During Ramadan especially, there are people who have probably cooked for most us, cleaned up the bathrooms in our mosques, and spent numerous hours facilitating for us an easier Ramadan. Aside from the importance of showing appreciation towards them because its the right thing to do, understanding the role they play in our lives can help us better understand the role we play in the lives of others. When we sit and think deeply about how important that person is that smiles at us every time we walk into our office building or school, that asks us how we are doing or if we need anything, that sells us our newspaper or coffee, or brings us our mail, it can become an inroad to our understanding how even the little things that we do for others can make a huge difference in their lives.
A lot of us lose the spirit of Ramadan gradually because we lose the support of the people that we were around during Ramadan -- those people who helped us directly and indirectly realize our potential to perform. Similarly, many lose the spirit of Ramadan because we are no longer with them as we previously were for a month's time providing a type of support that we might not realize actually comes from us. We and they then find ourselves in a place where all of our growth and excitement has suddenly disappeared, and we're left in a place wondering how that happened.
As the month draws to an end, take the time to reflect on those who do things for you, regardless of how small. It will help you better understand what it is that you are doing for others. Amongst the many things that you should strive to take with you beyond this month, take the realization that your presence does deeply impact those that are around you, and actualize that realization in such a way that you maintain relationships and connection to individuals and community beyond the month. So why put yourself willfully in a place where no one is with you? It's a lot easier to take things on when you don't have to stand alone so don't be alone and don't let others who rely on you be alone once the month is over.
Check out The Huffington Post's Ramadan liveblog updated daily with spiritual reflections, blog posts, photos, videos, and verses from the Quran. Tell us your Ramadan story.