Now that my friend Mohammad has moved to Michigan, we don’t see each other very often, but we still chat on the phone from time to time, and every so often I’ll get a text message from him.
HAPPY NEW YEAR 2019
Hi, Shawn, how are you?
My friend Shawn I want to tell you that Moradi is pregnant with child.
I received that last one in October, so we’re closing in on the arrival of their fifth child, another boy! How I wish they still lived here in Lancaster, where we could take them food and hold the little one and watch the other boys dote on their new brother.
Sometimes, our friendship almost seems impossible, like a long-ago dream. Could it have been that Mohammad and his family lived her, that he and I would sit on the front porch and look out over James Street at night? Could it be that I sat in his living room after his father died, sharing a meal with all of his friends?
But friendships can survive even long distances. The other day I received this text from Mohammad, and after I read it, I held it up for Maile to read while tears gathered in my eyes.
Hello my friend, Mohammad wrote, when he is born we will call him Mahmoud in Arabic and in English the name Shawn.
There is a friend waiting for you in the most unlikely of places. Perhaps in a group of people you currently can’t understand, or people you disagree with, or even in a group you hate. There are human beings there, on the other side of your convictions, on the other side of your opinions. There are friends waiting to be found, meals to be shared, and perhaps even a new generation of children who might one day affectionately bear your name.
I know, now, that this is why Jesus emphasized enemy-love and loving your neighbor. Not so that we can feel religious and righteous, but so that we could experience life to its fullest.
Who is your neighbor?
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Even more exciting news! Mohammad and I were asked to share our story of friendship at the upcoming CWS annual Community Appreciation Breakfast on May 9th at 7:30am at Westminster Presbyterian Church. Mohammad is coming into town just for this event! There is no cost to attend, but if you could sign up so they have an idea on how many are coming, that would be helpful. The Facebook link is here.
If you haven’t had a chance, please check out the book that Mohammad and I worked on together, called Once We Were Strangers: What Friendship with a Syrian Refugee Taught Me About Loving My Neighbor.