When was the last time you listened to someone – truly listened to them – without judging, personalizing or trying to shape the other person’s thoughts to align more closely with yours?
I had a fascinating conversation with a Muslim gentleman while waiting for my car to be serviced yesterday morning. He was telling me about his experience with Ramadan this year, which apparently was much more fulfilling for him than it had been in previous years as a result of his faithful observation of the month of fasting and his prudent (and not gluttonous) breaking the fast each evening.
According to the Quran, “[T]he month of Ramadan is that in which was revealed the Quran.” As I understand it, Ramadan is considered to be the most sacred month of the Islamic calendar and is essentially a month of fasting, spiritual reflection, heightened devotion and worship. Charity is also central to Islam, and the observances kept during this sacred month also help remind Muslims of the plight and needs of those less fortunate than themselves.
At any rate, this gentleman’s enthusiasm was infectious, but it occurred to me how many prejudices could have blocked the sublime and pure transference of feeling we were sharing in that moment. Had either of us let race, color or creed divide rather than connect, that moment would most surely have been lost.
It occurred to me at that moment that more important than any division is our common humanity. The body of humanity has suffered many bumps and bruises in its development through the ages and the conflicts and wars between the world’s races, religions, nations and social classes have left scars that are both painful and hard to conceal.
That said, they do not run as deep as they may seem to looking at them from above. It is not that hard to reach out to another human being, to lend him an ear and to respectfully, forgivingly and lovingly be a good listener.