It is Eid al-Adha, and I am sitting in Target eating Pizza Hut. We drove to the edge of the neighborhood, the toddler and I, and she is swinging her legs and saying “no, no, no” quietly to herself. Around me, men and women walk by in the holiday spirit, wearing long white robes or bright head scarves, talking and laughing and shopping.
I am embarrassed by my pepperoni, by my lack of devotion, for caving in to the allure of getting out of the house and using up my gift card. I keep forgetting where I am, all the time. I am in Target. I am in the middle of East Africa. I am in the middle of the country. The dichotomy of this neighborhood will never stop surprising me.
In all the space this long week afforded, I met a girl at the park, here visiting from Denmark. She was Somali-born, elegant and professional. As we sat in a burnt-out little park on perhaps one of the last nice days this year will have, she gestured at the city skyline a mere mile away. I have never seen this before, she said. This kind of place where all the poor are so close to all the rich. I looked around, and agreed. The infamous park where so much loss has happened, the big cavernous churches standing empty, the streets crowded with activity. And then, separated only by the freeway, is the glittery allure of downtown: big money, fast walkers, cafes and brewpubs. In the long silences of this week, hats shoved down on our heads, the baby girl and I have been walking. And the dividing lines are real and nearly visible here, I knew what she meant. This way of containment, of narrowed lives, have never been a part of my story.
On Sunday, a church next to the park has a fleet of blue busses, parked in a row in front of the sanctuary. That electric blue seems so out of place, that it leads me to wondering: How does it feel to be bussed to church? This leads to other questions–How does it feel to stand in line to get food for your children, to get a coat for the coming winter? How does it feel when you can’t leave your apartment after dark for fear of getting mugged? how does it feel to grow up with so much trauma and anxiety as a child due to inner-city life that you develop PTSD and are labeled attention-deficit?
I don’t know, how this feels. That is sort of the whole point.
It is Eid al-Adha.
I watch this video, and I am overwhelmed. By the enormity of a holiday that most of us don’t even acknowledge; at the sheer number of pilgrims on this earth. And for some reason this thought makes me both sober and feel less alone. I feel every inch the apprentice, the novice, to this new way of life. I feel like I am taking small steps on my own pilgrimage. There is some mutuality here, after all.
I am sitting in my apartment, wondering about the ways people sacrifice, every day. Eid Mubarak, indeed.