My friend’s daughter spent her 7th birthday in a unique way. Unlike other kids her age who want to decorate their house with balloons, order a giant birthday cake, invite all their friends and expect a lot of presents, she decided to do it differently.
There was no party planned at her house that day. Instead she took seven brand new toys (because she turned 7) and gave them to the patients at the children’s hospital. She also bought some chicken nuggets from Chick-fil-A and gave them to a homeless shelter. She turned her birthday from an occasion to “receive” to an occasion to “give.” She is a Muslim girl and what she did on her birthday is an inspiration for all of us.
This story should not surprise anyone, because Islam like any other religion advocates that we take care of the sick and the needy. Muslims are just finishing up the month of fasting (Ramadan) and the holiday of Eid-ul-Fitr.
Eid is a jubilant occasion, everyone dresses up nicely, sumptuous meals are made, people visit friends and family, children run around and play.
“It’s a lot of fun,” as a 7-year-old will put it. It is also an occasion to remember the less privileged.
Those who may not have the luxury to afford a new dress or a nice meal or even just a warm hug from a loved one. As a collective effort Muslims make charitable financial contributions leading up to the day of Eid that is spent to include everyone in the festivities.
As an example, the Ahamdiyya Muslim community, which is one of the many Muslim communities in America, collected over $75,000 for this very purpose alone last year.
It was a regular practice of the Prophet Muhammad to take one route for going to the Mosque for Eid prayer and return through another. This was done so he could meet and greet more people along the way and share the happiness of Eid.
One day when the Prophet was returning from the Eid prayer he saw a young kid sitting on the sidewalk, sad and gloomy. When the Prophet inquired what’s the matter with him, the kid replied, I don’t have a new dress to wear, any food to eat and even a place to live. The Prophet asked him what if I took you home with me, would that make you happy? The innocent kid responded with gleeful eyes and a smile on his face, yes! The Prophet took the kid home, gave him new clothes and fed him good food. This example is just one of many that presents the true charitable face of Muhammad.
Eid is as much an occasion to give back and share the happiness with others, as it is to rejoice and celebrate individually. Charlotte Bronte put it very nicely that “happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste.” Eid reminds us that we are all one big family. We may look different, we may dress differently, we may eat different foods but the smile on our face is universal, it’s the same everywhere.
My friend’s daughter did not get any physical presents on her birthday but I am sure she was very happy that day and she made a lot of other kids happy too. After all isn’t that the purpose of any celebration, whether it’s a birthday or Eid: to spread happiness!
I just belatedly watched the movie “Selma” this week. It reminded me that 50 years ago, heroic African American men and women risked everything – their jobs, their homes, their lives, the lives of their spouses, even the lives of their children, to set an example of loving their enemies almost unbelievable to imagine. Last month, the relatives of nine men and women callously murdered in church once again gave a powerful example of love and forgiveness.
On Saturday, Phillip Thomson, president of the Loudoun County NAACP, urged us in eloquent words to remember and to honor those who spent their lives as slaves, to remember and to honor those who risked their lives to free them on the Underground Railroad, and to remember and to honor those who fought so that this country might remain united with liberty and justice for all.
As a white woman, the descendant of slave owners, I can only respond with my hands and heart that it is our time, whatever our heritage in that awful war, in that terrible time, to come together as one country. It is past time to remember and to honor these brave, honorable people as martyrs and heroes.
Let us recall the past as a prelude to a more just, more perfect union.
The Rev. Phyllis Hubbell
Unitarian Universalist Church of Loudoun
Loudoun’s Board of Supervisors is considering loosening the ordinance that now restricts construction on steep slopes of ground in the county. The matter is now before the board’s Committee on Transportation and Land Use. Before taking any action it is worth reflecting on why current restrictions were enacted.
Start with the obvious hydrological facts. When rainfall reaches the Earth’s surface it disperses in various ways:
It can hit tree leaves and limbs or grasses, cling there and be evaporated back into the atmosphere.
It can be absorbed by tree roots, and transpired back into the atmosphere thorough tree leaves as part of the natural process that also removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
It can reach the soil and percolate into it, eventually reaching the groundwater table, or …
It can run down hill as surface runoff.
In the latter case it will run faster on steeper slopes, and be less likely to slow down and be absorbed by the soil.
The force of fast moving water erodes bare soil more easily if there is no vegetation (stems and roots) to slow it down. Removal of topsoil decreases future fertility. Surface runoff laden with eroded soil particles (muddy water) impairs downstream water quality for those creatures (including humans) who depend on it. When it reaches still water - say the Chesapeake Bay - it deposits silt and thus damages sub-surface ecological communities such as wetlands and oyster beds.
Water absorbed by the soil becomes groundwater. It may emerge downhill in a clear spring, a headwater of a clear stream or remain sub-surface to be pumped out as clear, pure water for human use. It is worth noting that many aquifers on which humans depend are being drawn down at unsustainable rates. With increasing numbers of wells and people in Loudoun, encouraging replenishment of our groundwater is only prudent.
Obviously the main purpose of long-standing restrictions against removing vegetation on steep slopes through construction of roads and buildings is intended to protect Loudoun’s water quality and quantity.
But there are secondary benefits. The Blue Ridge, Loudoun’s scenic backdrop, is an asset of enormous value – for tourism, for scenic beauty, for peace of mind and for the diversity of the communities of plants and animals it hosts. The Blue Ridge has also played many roles in Virginia history. Preserving it visually as it was then adds to our appreciation of this heritage. Scarring it, as Mount Weather now does, lessens its value.
I do not know the origin of this move for zoning change, but if it is like most such moves it is an attempt to convert a natural asset owned by us all into dollars in some individual’s pocket. The citizens of Loudoun should make sure this does not happen.
The author is a former Undersecretary of Commerce and Fortune 500 CEO who lives in Upperville. His column runs regularly in the Times-Mirror.
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