“I just saw a terrible thing,” my husband said, as he pulled up to the curb and I climbed into the passenger seat of the car.
He’d driven from the parking garage to pick me up and on the way happened to go past the mosque.
“I don’t know why, I just didn’t think to take pictures of it,” he lamented.
What my husband saw has occurred in the past at the Islāmic Center in Tucson.
The diverse congregation of the Islāmic Center—a squat, copper-domed complex just outside the University of Arizona’s campus—has endured taunts and vandalism ever since hundreds of students moved into two private high-rise apartments next door three years ago. In at least one instance, a shower of crushed peanuts rained down on the mosque; more typically, cans and bottles are flung from apartment balconies, usually on the party nights of Friday and Saturday.
“Can you believe it?” my husband said.
“People were marching–he assumed they were students–with an American flag for Veterans’ Day shouting, ‘Go back where you came from!” to the people leaving the mosque.
What were they thinking? Were they even thinking at all, or were they just being bullies?
Within a mile of my house is a Muslim-owned grocery store and a Kabob café. It’s a hubbub of business that brings in people from all over the city, especially the bakery and café where the Middle Eastern food is about the best in town.
I shop at this grocery store regularly and feel welcome there, even though it’s obvious I am not Muslim.
The store is closed on Fridays from 1:00 to 3:00 when everybody goes to prayers.
When my husband told me of the people he saw marching at the Islāmic Center, it was as if they were marching right through my little neighborhood grocery store, taunting and threatening people I am familiar with and who are part of the everyday fiber of my life.
My urge to do something to mitigate what my husband had seen was enormous.
And then, the next day, on the Islāmic Center’s Facebook Page, I saw that someone had indeed done something. Whether it was related to the scene my husband had witnessed the day before or not, it felt good to see what people had done.
There were a half-dozen pictures of people chalking the sidewalk in front of the Center with love notes.
We love you.
We want you here.
Tucson sees you and wants you.
There were moms with babies in strollers, young men, young women and kids all crawling around.
Each of them was carrying an incredible handheld “weapon” in their hands: a piece of chalk.
Chalk that wasn’t made of the ordinary stuff that chalk is made of, but that was made of the only magic ingredient that can wipe out the voices of bullies—it was chalk made from love.
When I saw the messages on the sidewalk I felt that a certain kind of darkness had been lifted and felt gratitude for the way in which these few caring people, armed with simple chalk, had made a difference.
I wasn’t the only one who felt gratitude however.
“From the bottom of our hearts, thank you. We love you too.” ~ Islamic Center of Tucson
Images: Used with Permission of the Islamic Center of Tucson
Author Bio: Carmelene Melanie Siani
Carmelene writes stories from every day life and how life itself offers lessons to help us grow, expand, and put our feet on higher ground.