Dr. Sarah Sayeed
People come in and out of the doorway of our lives for reasons not always discernible to us. But they are always there as part of some wise, loving plan for our growth, even and perhaps especially when they bring us challenges or pain.
There is a verse in the Quran that says truly in hardship there is ease. Another verse also says the God is closer to us than our jugular vein. And that God is with us wherever we are.
Since God is in every experience with us, we are not alone. I am not alone. Life encounters serve a purpose of (re)calibrating our inner compass. When we feel burdened, a smile from a loved one, even a pretend smile on our own face can lighten the load. When we are tipped towards grandiosity, false hopes or naiveté, disillusionment may walk in to help us back on course with a Reality beyond our line of sight. When we see darkness in one corner, light can shine from behind another. Anger has a place to remind us to guard our own boundaries and limits. A sense of purpose can seem to elude us, but that is just meant to be generative, to create a longing for authentic grounding. Loneliness hits and prompts us to seek out connection. We never dwell too long in any one state because we are constantly being renewed. Even depression lifts. With mindful attention, love, and compassion towards our own tender hearts, we can grow in awareness of how to manage the ebb and flow of our states. This will also help us live with love and kindness towards others.
I have faith that each person is put here for a deeper purpose meant to harness our talents and gifts in the service of some greater Goodness. We may be washed out and wrung dry in the process but that’s how we become reusable. It’s up to me to keep my lenses clear, to have a steady gaze that sees myself and others in this light. When I falter and forget, I can count on God’s wisdom to bring people and experiences into my life to guide me back to center.
A quote noted in my high school journal from the Velveteen Rabbit comes to mind: “Real isn’t how you are made” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become real.”
This is a story about a stuffed animal that perhaps feels a little instrumentalized, like I also have felt on occasion- by people in my circles. But there is a deeper love that has emerged in my personal relationships over time, a love that makes me grateful to be part of humanity, in spite of all our failings. It moves me toward gratitude and forgiveness.
I am now understanding that everything that happens is God’s way of making me and us each of us Real, renewing us daily as a channel for Goodness, loving us into who we truly are.
Sarah Sayeed is Senior Advisor in the Community Affairs Unit of the Mayor’s Office of New York City, where she is responsible for citywide Muslim engagement and facilitating culturally responsive agency outreach. This reflection was offered at the International Human Rights Art Festival’s “Celebration of Justice,” November 16, 2018.