The Profound Lesson A Muslim Woman Taught Me At Publix

Photo: Wendy Flynn Del Monte
The Profound Lesson A Muslim Woman Taught Me At Publix

Editor's Note: While this article is from 2015, we are republishing during the week of Thanksgiving to mark what we can all agree on: ie peace, love, kindness, and unity above fear and divisiveness in America.

I was searching for lasagna noodles and wasn't paying attention. I bumped carts with someone, and I laughed and said "sorry" as I glanced up. The woman whose cart I bumped smiled back, and kept walking.

I found myself admiring her headscarf as she walked away. She had on a lovely blue and silver scarf, tied in a way I had tried to do many, many times but never was able to.

The next few aisles we passed each other, we glanced at each other with those polite smiles we're so good at these days.

You know the ones  the "I'm a nice person but don't talk to me. I don't want to get into a conversation" smiles. Finally, in the baking aisle, I broke.

"I love your scarf. It's so beautiful! I'm so jealous you can get it to lie so smoothly. I always mess mine up when I try to put one on."

She looked up, startled, and let loose a smile that started tentatively, then blossomed so her whole face was lit with happiness.

"Oh, it's easy!" she said. I responded by explaining that no matter how many times I tried, I couldn't do it.

"Here, I'll show you!"

Right there, in the middle of the baking aisle, she started unwrapping her scarf and removing pins to show me.

She showed me, step by step, how to tie the scarf sleek and smooth. As she tied it, we stopped laughing and I looked at her and asked, "Where are you from?"

"Egypt," she answered.

Then I asked her, "Are you Muslim?"

Her eyes grew guarded while her smile slipped slightly, and she nodded. "Yes, I'm Muslim."

I looked at her, and she looked back at me, and something happened that surprised me: My eyes filled with tears.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry that you're hearing so much hate right now. I'm sorry you're being judged by many for something that you shouldn't be judged for. I'm sorry that you have to feel afraid when someone asked you that question."

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Then tears started falling. I asked her if I could hug her. She looked surprised. Her eyes welled up with tears, too. She said yes, then she hugged me right back.

We had a long conversation in the grocery store about what's happening in the world today. We talked about how there are good and bad in everything.

There are good and bad Jews.

There are good and bad Christians.

There are good and bad Muslims.

There are good and bad in everyone.

I'll admit, this is something I've been struggling with. I'm nobody special. I'm a Mom who's trying my best to raise my children in today's world.

I'm scared for my children's future. I'm worried about who will be our next President. And, yes, I won't lie, I'm scared of ISIS. I'm terrified by ISIS.

They're some truly evil people who will not stop at anything to reach their goal; their goal is to rid the world of people who don't believe the way that they do. But they aren't what every Muslim is about.

I let my fear nearly take over. I've been struggling with how to feel about these new threats that face America.

I'm not sure what to think about letting a lot of refugees into our country without being able to fully vet them and ensure our safety.

I'm a firm believer in my right to bear arms, but I think there should be oversight on getting one.

I think we need to secure our borders and take care of the people here, the Americans here, who need help, especially our veterans.

We have so many threats facing America, but one of the biggest threats we face is letting fear change our country. I think we need to work on not letting fear change us.

I know that my actions are something my children are watching closely to learn how to live in this scary new world.

I teach them to always be aware. I teach them to listen to their gut feelings. I teach them that if they see something, to say something, no matter what.

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I teach them how to protect themselves. I also teach them that most people are good. I teach them not to judge others because of their race, religion, or background. I teach them, that first and foremost, to choose love.

I remembered something my friend Carla had said on Facebook, and I asked Elan, the woman with the headscarf, about it. I told her I couldn't remember to say it, and could she help.

"Assalamu alaykum."

She taught me how to say it. The words rolled off my tongue and into my heart. As-salam-u-alay-koom.

It's a greeting that many Muslims use to greet each other. It means peace, or "Peace be with you." There are many different ways to say it.


Assalamu alaykum.


Sound familiar?

Peace be with you.

Photo: Author

That's what most of us want: Peace. It doesn't matter what religion we are. Most of the world wants peace.

We won't get it through fear. We can only get it through love. Choose love. Love wins.

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Wendy Del Monte became an anti-bullying advocate the moment she walked in on her 13-year-old daughter attempting suicide due to bullying. Now she and her daughter, Aly, teach people how to ‪#‎BeBrave‬ and stand up to bulling. They speak to both young people and adults on way to advocate for those who are bullied.

This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.