Friday, October 06, 2006

A Ramadan Shopping Trip

This is Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. Muslims fast from sunup to sundown during Ramadan. I have heard stories that during Ramadan things can get crazy because people are in a big rush to get home so that they can end their fast. I was also told that the streets could turn into the Indianapolis 500 and the stores into a contact sport. Well as I said, I ventured out not too far just to the little market or “suuq” up the block to buy a few things, I really did not need anything but it was nice to get out. The walk to the suuq was mostly uneventful with the exception of people who normally would be at work were now out shopping, it was about 2:30 in the afternoon and the streets were busy.

Well I figured the suuq couldn’t be that bad it is just a little store and they just sell a few items, nothing anybody really needed. However, when I arrived at the suuq I found normally rational people transformed by hunger waiting in long lines, for the same things that no one waits on line for before or after Ramadan. I was starting to think Ramadan means “Holiday of Lines” in Arabic. People were grabbing things off the shelves as if it was the last one on earth. Well thank God I needed only a few unessential items and could have come back another time but since I was there I went in to the suuq and I found my openings and grabbed what I could including a few thing I did not want.

Well, I finally made it to the checkout line with my few precious items. The line was long for such a little store and I quickly noticed people would just cut right up front to the annoyance of those who were waiting. Now let me say that this is not to unusual anytime of the year in Jordan where the concept of waiting on line is often absent, but it was worse today than usual. The cutters, as I now labeled them, used any pretext that they could devise to say why they should not have to wait like everyone else. Hunger will make people do silly things and act in unkindly ways. Well, I vowed immediately that I was not going to let anyone cut in front of me. My blood was raised and the challenge was on and I did not want to look weak in front of the other customers. I felt like a defensive lineman whose team was making a goal line stance.

My first challenge was an 65-year-old man; I thought there is no way he is going to get in front of me. However, I made my first mistake by allowing a postage stamp size piece of the counter to show. Well, the man tried to empty his basket of food and put it on the counter on the postage stamp size counter that was left. I guess he figured no one was using it and since the 10 people, standing in line behind me didn’t use it they really did not want to leave the store. This small patch of counter space became an imaginary goal line to me. I defended it with some very skillful movements so the old man was no match for me. He soon gave up and out maneuvered the person behind me using an empty shopping cart. I guess he figured that if he could not get into the end zone, he was going for a field goal.

Now let me say this before you judge me too harshly, normally I would have let this poor man go right a head of me, but this was different. I had things that I needed badly and could not do without and had to get them home before dark, it was hot, and I was thirsty and hungry. I was on a line that was long to begin with, several people had already cut ahead. Also there were numerous other challengers that were successfully repulsed by others in line. Well anyway, with that challenge behind me I was feeling smug and let my guard down. So in circled a young man about 21 to give me a second challenge. The clerk had already begun ringing up several of my items when this young man, apparently with no respect for his elders, put his items in front of my unchecked items. I guess he figured that he could check out in between my things. I quickly repulsed his attack and he ended up in front of the old man who was no match for him. Well finally, I was checked out with all of my much-needed items and left the store in triumph.

On my way out of the suuq there were two men yelling at each other. Apparently, one had parked behind the other so he could not get out. Well, I am still leaning Arabic so I was not sure exactly what they were saying to each other but one guy was telling the other guy to eat a lot of it. “Kull” is the word for eat in Arabic. I think he was suggesting a way for him to break his fast. One thing I am sure of is he wasn’t telling him Ramadan Kareem.

As I was walking down the street, I became very self-confident thinking how much more sophisticated we Westerners are and that I succeeded in procuring 5 lbs of macaroni that will take me 3 months to eat. We would never do anything like this in the states. So in my self-confidence I began humming a little tune. I soon realized that the tune I was humming was jingle bells. Then it hit me Ramadan is not that much different from the weeks before and after Christmas in the states.

I then realized to my shame that we often are caught up in the moment and events of the holidays, and in trying to obey the first of the greatest commandments “To love the Lord you God with all you heart, mind and soul” we often fail to obey the second greatest commandment. Jesus told us “to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.” It often becomes more important to “buy” that hot toy, which will either brake or be forgotten in a week, or those few items we could never do without that sit in our cupboards for years un opened and uneaten. Or to fast all day to show everyone how righteous you are or be seen in Church for a few weeks before Christmas.

The Psalmist tell us that God does “not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” (Psalms 51:16-17 NASB) The idea here is, that any mere external offering, however precious, or costly it might be to us, is not what God is looking for. Going to Church for the holidays, fasting during the day, giving until it hurts or bankrupts us, or anything else is useless without love toward our fellow man. God demands the expression of deep and sincere repentance; the sacrifices of a contrite heart and of a broken spirit towards Himself and others.

After Jesus told the people listening to Him what were the two greatest commandments a scribe listening to Jesus said “And to love Him (God) with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love the neighbor as himself, is more than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices. And seeing that he had answered intelligently, Jesus said to him, You are not far from the kingdom of God. And no one dared to question Him any more.” (Mar 12:33-34 MKJV) Next time I venture out to the suuq or anywhere else I won’t look at the “things” I don’t really need so wantonly and so what if a few people get ahead in line. Maybe they do have a good reason.

Posted By LR who is about ready for another shopping adventure.

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