My eighteen-year-old son, an engineering student, came home feeling good the other day. He officially added another feather to his cap. No, it wasn’t another trophy or award. He came home from work at a motor workshop, as an intern mechanic, during his college break, and it turned out to be one of the best times of his adolescent life.
Years earlier, he had made a request to tinker with an old Atos which his elder sister had been using. “Why can’t I dismantle the car engine? At least I could learn how the engine works,” he begged every other day. The little Atos was breaking down far more frequently and costing way more in repairs than expected.
In the end, my husband and I decided to give the tiny car an overhaul anyway, so my son’s chance at taking it apart went away. But it didn’t deal with his innate need to do something with his hands. At the back of my mind, I knew it was a genuine interest in him, in all things mechanical.
To my husband’s credit, we stumbled upon an up-and-coming motor workshop nearby. Turned out that it belonged to a former neighbour, whose children I used to give rides to and from school. I asked the owner: Could my son spend some time there every now and then, to lend his staff a hand? But of course!
Thinking back, had I not taken the time to get to know my neighbour better, years earlier, it is possible that my son’s wish to tinker with cars, to come and go as he liked as an intern mechanic, might still remain unfulfilled today.
My point is that, when we make time to build relationships with others, we might be surprised how the little acts of kindness that we did over time might come back to us in future.
It is true that when we act kindly towards others, we shouldn’t be expecting anything in return.
But pretty often, Allah Most Kind can, will, and does ensure that eventually, one day, you will be paid with an equal or better form of kindness.
If it doesn’t get to you, it will reach someone near and dear to you. Perhaps your spouse, parents, children. Or a sibling of yours. What goes around, comes around.
If you are living in a cramped city similar to mine, you are likely to experience the unique challenges of raising children at a time when there is less and less opportunity for them to do things with their hands – with the exception of hammering away at the keyboard of a laptop or iPad.
The fact is that, all the blessings, comforts and conveniences of modern living do not take away the real need of many boys to tinker with mechanical things with their bare hands. Plus, if any of the research on boys were to be believed, boys who do not get their physical energy burned out in healthy ways are likely to express them in unhealthy ways.
Like getting into fights with their younger or older siblings. Sometimes, the things they fight over would appear to be so silly, you just can’t make sense of it. Like arguing over who finished the last scoop of ice-cream when everyone already had some over dinner the previous night.
But that’s what you get when boys are bored to death with staying at home, having little else to do apart from pecking away at the keyboard.
Lots of parents in cities have teenagers who just don’t know what to do during school and college break. Some of them end up hanging around in shopping malls, playing games in video and internet arcades, doing little else, except eat and sleep, waiting passively for the next school or college semester to start.
Lots of families in the city are leading a lifestyle of a nuclear family: mom, dad, and at most two kids. A great number of both parents work, leaving kids at home unattended. Many of these kids go to school, and return to empty homes because their parents finish work late in the evening.
My advice is, if this description fits your family, why not try to get to know your neighbours better? It doesn’t hurt to have a friendly neighbour or two, who can help watch out for your kids. At the very least, you have someone to call in case of an emergency.
Even better, you never know if one of them might end up opening a motor workshop like mine did, years down the road. You might see a teenaged son of yours spending time there one day, dismantling an old car engine, and declaring with a big smile at the end of his college break, “Mom, Dad! That’s simply one of the best times of my life!”[ends]
This article was published in the January 2015 edition of Alwasat, the bilingual newspaper based in Melbourne, Australia. Read in online at page 30 http://issuu.com/alwasat2011/docs/january_2015]