Answering to Another Name

Let me try a new thing and intersperse some notes about daily life amid the Bible talk.

I was waling home from doing some errands in downtown Rabat. Two blocks off of Boulevard Muhammad V, where the Spanish Cultural center and Old German embassy face the Office of Foreign Affairs there is a strange triangular intersection that is particularly hazardous to pedestrians. Small blue taxi drivers whip around the corner without looking, through no fault of their own. There is a colonnade right up to the corner that obscures their view. They could slow down and peer around the corner to make sure it’s safe, but that simply isn’t the way things are done. So I crossed the street as quickly as I was able and congratulated myself on surviving that intersection again.

As I was walking away, I heard two voices cry out “Muhammad!” Because it was still pretty early, the street was not yet crowded with people as it would have been even an hour later. I knew they were calling for me. Calling “Muhammad” to strangers works the same way here as calling “Joe” into a crowd of young men worked in the 1960s. Normally, I just walk on and ignore it. My name is not Muhammad and I’m not Muslim. There are lots of ways to get someone’s attention, and so I don’t usually answer to that name. Today I turned around though. And I was glad I did.

The-HondaIn the back of a small Honda truck [the kind that is used to move around furniture] was a rather obese old woman in a wheelchair. The two voices calling out to me were looking for someone to help them lower her to the pavement. I was game to help, so I jogged back to where they were parked (across the dangerous intersection). We three grown men strained to lower the woman to the ground, but we got her out of the truck without dropping her. After we shock hands all around and gave thumbs-up, the older guy helping the woman out said “Thanks, Muhammad” as I left to cross the intersection one more time.

I guess the point of the story is how dangerous self-isolating can be to doing good in the world. If I think of myself as separate for my surroundings and define myself as other or simply “not Muhammad,” I will miss opportunities to help my neighbor. I think this is as true in national policy as it is in personal policy. I’m thinking especially about isolating the U.S. from countries in the rest of the world, and trying to pretend that we are not a country of immigrants – which is both false and foolish.

So, in order to be less of a hypocrite in my personal life, I will endeavor to cut myself off less from my neighbors. If answering to Muhammad is an avenue to helping folks out, so be it.

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