Growing up, I might not know the entire neighborhood where I lived, but I knew my immediate neighbours. Living in the city brings a different story for my kids, today. Most of our neighbours work. We don’t see them for months on end. In fact, recently I just learnt that I have been neighbours with a particular family for more than a decade, but I don’t know them! Horrors. If anything were to happen to them, I would be the last person to know. Of course I’m not saying that we all need to know the details of what goes on in people’s lives. But you know what I mean.
It’s kind of hard to think of others when you haven’t eaten or drank all day, not even a sip of water. Tempers may run short, you get angry and cranky quickly. So easy to only think of yourself and all the scrumptious food about to be savoured. But have you thought of that neighbour who is a single mother, whose kids are waiting for her to come home late in the evening? For all you know, she and her kids might even missed the predawn meal (sahur) because they were just too tired the day before. Or the folks who live three doors down the road, where you usually park your car, yet they are complete strangers to you?
It might seem like a simple request – asking a teenage child to send some food over to a neighbour. But I find that even this simple request can help children gain confidence to speak up, if you train them. First, give salaam (after three times, if no response, leave). Second, look up respectfully and introduce yourself with a smile (“I’m so-and-so from house-number-such-and-such. Here is a little something for you to break your fast with.”) Third, thank the neighbour (for graciously accepting the gift). Not only will your teenager learn to become more assertive, it’s a lesson for him to go the extra mile and sacrifice a bit of self-comfort (when all he wants to do the last hour before iftar is sleep it off).