Breaking Bread Is Better Than Breaking Bonds

, , , , , | Hopeless | July 20, 2017

In the late 90s, a couple from Iran moves in next door to my parents. They’re very friendly people, although a bit shy and the wife initially didn’t speak much English. While they both wear traditional Western clothes, they are practicing Muslims. Most of the neighborhood is white and at least nominally Christian, and none of the other neighbors are Middle Eastern or Muslim. But no one cares and the couple settles right in, and the other families in the neighborhood are happy to throw a baby shower for them when the wife is pregnant. She is so touched she cries happy tears, explaining that she felt so accepted and loved.

In the days following September 11, 2001, several of the neighbors were standing out on the sidewalk talking, trying to process the terror attacks. My dad notices that he hasn’t seen the next-door neighbors. He walks to their door and knocks. The husband answers. (The husband is about five-foot three and the wife even smaller. My dad is six-foot two; only one other man in the neighborhood is taller.) The neighbor looks a little nervous.

Dad greets the neighbor and explains that a bunch of people just felt like talking, and he and his wife were welcome to join if they want. The neighbor declines, and Dad reassures him that no one is mad at him or his wife or thought they are terrorist or sympathizers. He says, “If you don’t blame me for Timothy McVeigh, I won’t blame you for the terrorists.” The neighbor still stays home, but is relieved.

They’re still my parents’ next-door neighbors, and still very nice people. I have kids myself now, and the neighbors have given them carte blanche to pick any of the flowers in their front yard (and the flowers are incredible; the most gorgeous roses I’ve ever seen) and often give them Christmas presents. I’m going to visit my parents tomorrow, and since Ramadan is over, I have a loaf of (Halal-friendly) bread baking in the oven to bring the neighbors.

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