Meeting new friends on a Monday…

I am so blown away how God blessed my lunch in the park today. Every Monday I have this ritual of eating a Chick-fa-la grilled chicken sandwich meal. It’s a beautiful fall day here in Minnesota and I thought it would be a good idea to grab my lunch and find a park to eat it in. I ended up at Coon Creek Park in Coon Rapids. I walked on the bridge over the creek and to the picnic tables. As I rounded the corner, I saw three Muslim women  sitting at tables under a canopy while a man cooked carp over the grill.  In what seemed automatic, I approached them and as I did, one of women said, “Do you want to sit?” Yes.I.did.

I sat down and they all smiled and said hello to me. Immediately the woman sitting across from me asked me if I would like to eat with them. Thankfully, for me, I was going to be well into my chicken sandwich long before the carp on the grill was finished cooking. With the exception of rainbow trout, I’m NOT a fish eater. Dean would certainly have taken her up on the offer. As we sat together I started asking questions and in her best broken English she tried to answer them.

Her name was Miriam, her sisters were Fatima and Zimzim. Her brother was Muhammed. They were refugees from Iraq who have been in Coon Rapids for about a year. Her heart is sad because her parents were sent to Turkey. The women do not work, I imagine that their faith doesn’t allow it but I’m not sure. Muhammed works at WalMart and another brother does as well. Somehow they manage to make life work here.

As one born with more empathy for others than is sometimes good for me, all I could think about was making sure that they knew that this American, this white 55 year old of German/English descent, valued their humanity. I wanted the forces of darkness in the world to know too. I wanted everyone who walked by to see us and recognize our shared humanness a bit more with me sitting at their table.

As I finished my lunch and got ready to go, Muhammed was eager to show me how he had cooked his fish and what parts of it they ate. He asked me what my husband did and where he worked and I tried to explain grain handling equipment to him.  He asked where I worked :).  He told me where I could go to buy fish like that if I wanted to and then he asked if I wanted to eat with them.

I started to leave  and say good bye but before I knew it, the three women were hugging me and telling me that they loved me. One even kissed my cheek as she hugged me. I know, lots of touchy feely emotion for us here in Minnesota!! I’m a hugger so it was just fine with me. As I left their presence and started to walk across the bridge and back to my car, I was in tears because I was so overwhelmed with gratitude for what had just happened.

On a Monday when the news is so awful coming from St. Cloud and around the country, I sincerely wanted to push back against the darkness in anyway I could. I had no idea that God would be so eager to honor that desire and make this meeting take place. I am a blessed woman.

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Me…Zumzum, Miriam and Fatima – new friends from Iraq

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Muhammed cooks carp over an open fire

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