Imam Khalid Latif is blogging his reflections during the month of Ramadan for the third year in a row, featured daily on HuffPost Religion. For a complete record of his previous posts, click over to the Islamic Center at New York University or visit his author page, and to follow along with the rest of his reflections, sign up for an author email alert above, visit his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.
My old college roommate Farooq Razvi is driving Priya, Madina and I to the Houston airport as I write this. Seeing him is always nice as the sense of familiarity that we share is something that, to me, is invaluable. Aside from him, I was able to see many other friends and loved ones that over the last few years as well as from years ago I've had the blessing of building a friendship with. And even when we don't see each other for quite some time, it's as if no time passed at all since the last time we were in each other's company. That sense of kinship is something that is remarkable to experience as well as to simply witness.
My family and I were once visiting Pakistan about eight or nine years ago. We were in Lahore and my father took us the home he grew up in as a child in a place called Gualmundi. We walked through the streets that he once walked through as a child and I remembered by grandfather, may God grant him peace, telling me how he worked as a bank teller and would ride a bike back and forth to work and then spend evenings sitting with my father and uncle making sure they studied, at times under the light of a street lamp since that was the only light there was.
As we made our way to his home, my father spoke to a middle-aged gentleman on a motorcycle who eventually recognized who he was. He directed us to the small apartment my father, my two aunts and uncle, and my grandparents once lived in - a small space with a couple of rooms. I could see my father absorbing the memories that he once lived and taking it all in. We stepped out of the front door into the hallway and an elderly, punjabi woman came out of the apartment directly across. She couldn't see so well and must have been in her 70's or 80's but something resonated in her upon seeing my father. Before he could identify himself, she had walked over, grabbed his hand, rubbed it slightly and said to him in punjabi "Oy Peja, tu vapas aa gaya hai?" Meaning, "Oh Peja (a nickname for Pervaize, my father's name) you have come back?" This woman who could not see recognized my father after years of not seeing him just by holding his hand. My father simply teared, as the feeling of familiarity soaked in and the preciousness of a bond that lasted through decades found its way back into his life.
We're very quick to let go of relationships, be they to individuals, places, or organizations that played some type of role in our personal development and growth. I was in Houston about a year ago and saw people on this visit that I hadn't seen since the last time I was here. What's crazy though is that some of those people also hadn't seen each other since the last time I was here, despite their living in close proximity to one another. Ramadan each year has the same story where we connect to people and enjoy the moment, but for whatever reason don't do what is necessary to maintain the connection.
All kinds of justifications are given -- I am busy with work, I am married now, I have children, I've moved far away. Nothing would really serve as a tradeoff though for what is being given up in the process. That feeling of understanding and familiarity feels incredible and to let it go because of our being caught up in the world just doesn't make sense. If my father had not taken the time to go back to his childhood home, he would not have experienced what he had. If we don't take steps towards those people and places that played a critical role in our lives, it's we who end up missing out the most.
Don't wait for someone to reach out to you or a chance interaction but be deliberate in your reaching out. Call up, text message, or email an old friend just to catch up and see how they are and to let them know how you are as well. It'll definitely be a beneficial experience.