My tear-filled trip to Target

I went to Target this morning to pick up some emergency supplies for the apartment. Ah, how I miss the days of being a care-free little girl, always finding the supply closest brimming with reams of toilet paper just when I needed one. As I have come to learn, there is no such thing as a magic closet. C.S. Lewis made it all up!

As I began to unload my items on the conveyor belt at check-out, the cashier greeted me with a “Hello,” to which I responded in kind. I found this to be delightfully odd, because in my experience cashiers don’t ever say “Hello” until payment time, even though I know they’ve acknowledged my existence. Perhaps this man was friendlier than most?

Encouraged, I decided I would start a conversation (I am not usually one to make small talk). I asked the cashier how he was doing. No response. I was slightly taken aback.

Maybe he didn’t hear me.

Or maybe… it was my headscarf.

Maybe the “Hello” from earlier was some kind of employee requirement, I rationalized to myself. At that point, I no longer wanted to engage in any more conversation than was necessary. So I bowed my head down, dismayed, wanting to get out of that store as quickly as I could.

But as I went to hand him my cash, I noticed his name tag. Under his name, Thomas, it read “I am deaf.”

Immediately, I wanted to kick myself for assuming this man disliked me because of my religion. I instinctively said “Thank you” after he gave me my change, but then I realized, he can’t hear me! I tried to smile the biggest smile I could in that moment without looking like The Joker. I didn’t know what else to do. I wanted to apologize for my thoughts. I wanted to compensate for my earlier judgement by being super friendly, but I wasn’t sure how to communicate with this man. I don’t know sign language and it would be an insult to him to try to pretend that I do. So I left it at that smile.

In the parking lot, as I loaded the bags into my car, I began to cry. I felt like such an idiot.

Throughout the day, I kept on thinking about Thomas. Perhaps because I am a singer, I thought about him more acutely than I might have otherwise. I can’t imagine a world without song. Maybe Thomas wasn’t born deaf. Maybe he has difficulty hearing. Whatever the case may be, I have in my possession something he is bereft of. And boy do I take it for granted.

But the ability to hear is not the only thing I take for granted. I can see. I can speak. I can walk. Suddenly, all my problems ceased to be problems at all.

The biggest take-away for me however is to not make snap judgements. That old adage about making assumptions? It’s an adage for good reason! Islamophobia is indeed a reality in our world. But this is no excuse. Automatically assuming that someone holds negative views about Muslims and Islam is something I have to fight against. I have to move past this negative rhetoric I find myself engulfed in.

After dhuhr prayer, I made a special prayer for this man and his family and asked God to bless him and make him stronger for all that he’s had to endure – his struggles and people like me, so absorbed in their own problems and unable to see beyond their personal line of sight.

I’ll most likely never see Thomas again, but I hope I never take for granted the lessons he’s taught me.

7 thoughts on “My tear-filled trip to Target

  1. Honestly, I always learn so much more from occurrences like these than any other experience. Sometimes I go to a lecture or something, expecting to be so enlightened, but then on my way out I can meet a homeless person and stumble into a quick, short conversation that can change my life. Or, like in your case, there doesn’t even need to be an exchange of words at all. These are some of my most favorite moments in life, that always stick with me for the years to come. Hope to see you write about more moments like this!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Unfortunately, I find that human societies in general are built around one type of human: the able-bodied, healthy human, and so those who don’t correspond to that category tend to stick out like a sore thumb. We barely ever interact with people with disability, whether in school, our workplaces, or public spaces. As the old saying goes, out of sight, out of mind. Trust me Rafia, most people would have assumed he was ignoring them and being a jerk. Disability is not the first thing that would come to most people’s mind. Experiencing Islamophobia and racism has a way of making us a little more sensitive and hyper vigilant. Next time, wait until you establish eye contact with a deaf person, that way you know you have their attention. If it is something as simple as thank you, you can say it to them, most of the time they can read lips as long as they can see them. Smile, wave while saying goodbye. Also, use this as an opportunity to learn a few signs like hello, goodbye, and thank you.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Very good point! I too tend to make rather hasty judgements of others, and your post helped to me realize and consider that…Thanks for posting this!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you so much for this helpful advice! A part of me feels like going back and trying to find Thomas and rectifying my past encounter with him. But Insha’Allah, in the future, when/if I find myself in a situation like this again, I’ll be sure to make eye contact. Sometimes, I’m afraid of doing just that to people in general, because I’m always afraid of the reaction I might get for being Muslim. But that’s no way to live!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I totally get that. Being Muslim these days comes with a lot of uncertainty when dealing with folks. The only time i feel that eye contact is absolutely essential is when interacting with deaf people. In any other circumstance though, I would say go with your guts and your level of comfort.

    Liked by 1 person

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