One of the distinct features of Ramadan that I have come to love is the feeling of camaraderie, of being one anther’s keeper and of going out of ones way to show love and support. In my opinion, (wo)man’s capacity for kindness is never more evident than during this Holy month. Its a time when complete strangers sit together in prayer shoulder to shoulder for hours and contemplate the wonders of God’s creative abilities. When families who live in the same house yet have very separate lives pause for a moment and rediscover one another. When people go out of their way to lend a helping hand to the needy and orphaned in society. And perhaps, what’s most beautiful, when the indescribable bond between humanity – Muslims and non-Muslims – is renewed.
Over the years and during my time away from home I have experienced just how generous and supportive people (and complete strangers) can be. From the young couple in Washington, DC who opened up their beautiful penthouse apartment (yes, you read right) to me for the summer for free (note, a shared apartment in DC usually goes for at LEAST $800/month), on account of my being an MHC alumnae, to the countless, countless people who encourage and support me in trying to find my path in life. This Ramadan has come with a bounty of pleasant surprises. From my coworkers who check on me periodically throughout the day to make sure my energy level is still up, to my virtual peeps from all over the world who wished me Ramadan Kareem and just yesterday, my friends who hesitated in mentioning “food” and “drink” in front of me in fear that I would be tempted. – Side note, you don’t need to censor yourself on the topic of food around me lol. Yes, I adore food, but I can hold my own during Ramadan. – I find it especially heartwarming to note that the level of awareness among the non-Muslim community in Ghana seems to be changing/growing. Sure, there are still the occasional jokes about how “I cant wait for the Muslim holiday (Eid). The way I will eat eh!” or “This Hausa koko (porridge)/waakye (rice and beans) woman paa how dare she not show up because of fasting?”I think all that is in goodwill. Or maybe its less of the phenomenon, and more of the people?
Eitherway, the love, support and positivity that I experience during Ramadan has made me even more conscious of the people I interact with. Not just in general, but particularly on a daily and consistent basis. In primary school or JSS I probably would have restricted my interactions with a person because they passed me in the exam, or they were teasing me, or some other seemingly important reason at the time. Today, I tend to look less to the blatant actions of my circle of acquaintances and friends, and more to how they make me feel. Pause. I know this sounds very hippie, but allow me to elaborate. All the universe is made up of energy – protons, electrons, neutrons, atoms- and science proves that even our very thoughts transmit some amount of energy. Just as some people inspire, others drain, and both influence you to a degree. While you might not be able to change the kind of energy coming from someone (they are their own self contained universe and as it would be you’re not king or queen) you can control how much it affects you.
So, if you have that one friend who always makes you feel down, unimportant or as some would say, a non entity, you need to evaluate why you’re allowing that person into your space at all. Wars, famine, and other disasters might affect you on a physical plane, but negativity kills on multiple levels – emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically. On the flip side, there are other people who literally get your blood pumping…and i dont mean in a sexual way….who make you want to push further, to work towards your dreams, to take a HUGE bite out of the apple called life and go on to actively LIVE! Those, my friends, are the people you should be surrounding yourself with, for all our sakes.
So what happens to those people who through no fault of theirs have been handed a hard deal in life? Do they get left behind? Notice that we’re not talking about physical conditions here. Some of the people who have inspired me the most have had some of the most unimaginable struggles you can think of. Physically, they might not (seem to) inspire much. The key here is not what they have by way of money, looks, etc, but who they are– persistent, hopeful, determined, kind, etc. Additionally, we all need to realize that we have the ability to influence and inspire. Yes, YOU, in your own small way. Do not underestimate that power. And sometimes,when you find yourself in a pit of gloom, it’sYOU who will reach within and pull yourself up. So no, do not immediately discount someone on account of the negative vibes you get from them, but realize that sometimes, people come into our lives not because of what they can give us, but rather how WE can assist them. There are those one-way interactions in life, and for those my general rule is to assist as much as you can, but not to the point where you yourself are totally drained and can barely help yourself. We are only as strong as our weakest link.
Since coming home I have encountered over 30(and counting) young and inspiring individuals who I am certain without a doubt will leave such an indelible impression on Ghana, Africa and the world, that their influence will continue to resonate long after their charge in this life is done. Here on Circumspect I call them Visionnaires. The beautiful thing about them is they are just like you and I, trying to make their way in life, and perhaps caring a bit more about how they do it. Simply being around them makes you want to be and do better. Make no mistake, this is OUR generation. It’s already upon us. We each have an ink-filled quilt poised between our fingers and the upcoming pages of our individual and human existence are literally in our hands. May we each find the courage, the love, and the faith to put quilt to paper and leave positive impressions. Amine. With that, massalama (peace be with you) and have a blessed day!
Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.