Life is a conundrum. One day I’m pummeled by the horrific massacre in Istanbul yet instantly buoyed by the artistic focus of our young grandson.
I shudder at news of insensible shootings by police and of police, then moments later I’m gleefully giggling at the absent-minded antics of Dory at the movie theater.
How can this be?
Perhaps I should be thankful for the resilience that allows us to feel joy in the midst of pain, sort of like the warm laughter my siblings shared through our tears at our father’s death bed. It’s how we survive. How we cope.
At times I’ve worried that my recent memoir, You must only to love them [I know, it’s ungrammatical to use lower case letters, but it was a quote], might seem too light and airy considering the devastating violence going on in the world.
But then I realize my main intent with this book is an important one. I want to help people accept Muslims by experiencing the beauty of Turkey and its people through my eyes and experiences.
I want the entire world to understand that ISIS is not Islam but a heinous aberration of a warm and loving faith. I was repeatedly touched not only by the kindness and generosity of the Turks, but also by the many thoughtful expressions they use daily. In Turkey, when someone creates a meal for you, “thank you” isn’t enough. You say “Eleniz sağlik,” or “Health to your hands.” When you walk by someone who is working hard, you say “Kolay gelsin,” which means “May it come easy.” If someone faces a difficult time, you don’t just say “I’m sorry,” you say “Geçmiş Olsun”—”May you leave it behind.” Even language can be the key to a culture. I was charmed by the Turks and their many kindnesses. That’s why I wrote this book, and I hope it will serve a real purpose in showing people the beauty of Islam.
My experiences in Turkey taught me exactly what my parents had taught me, what life had taught me: Be kind.
When I was a girl my mother stressed repeatedly that I needed to be kind to everyone—not just my friends. If Kathy (who I wasn’t crazy about) called me to play and then Sally (my best buddy) called, I wasn’t allowed to change my plans. I could, however, arrange for all of us to play together, but I had to treat Kathy as well as Sally. And I did.
I can’t tell you how many frogs I dated because they asked me out and I didn’t want to hurt their feelings by refusing. Thanks a lot, Mom. I think that might have been taking kindness a bit far, but I’d learned my lesson well: Be kind.
If only everyone were as kind as my mother wanted—as kind as the Muslims—perhaps we could all live in peace. At least we can counteract the world’s ugliness with our little kindnesses. We could be like the people I grew to love, the Muslims who stole my heart.
As my good friend Uygar said, “You must only to love them.”
Give someone a rose.