So, yesterday was another scorcher and I opted to send two of my kids down to the corner store to pick up a bunch of stuff we were missing. They spent about 35 Pounds buying me groceries and complained that the owner was really crabby. I blew it off and went about making breakfast (it’s Ramadan and we’re fasting until sunset) when I realized that I forgot to have the kids buy salt. I sent Ismail back down to the corner store to get me a bag of salt. He came home really angry but not raging (which is good for a 13 yr old boy who is learning to control his emotions.) He said that the dude gave him a bag of salt and he paid and then asked for a plastic sack to put it in. The owner of the store yelled at him, “It comes in a bag!” Ismail thought he was just clowning with him and said, “No, really. I want a bag.” The owner yelled at him again and got in his face this time, “I TOLD YOU IT COMES IN A BAG!” So Ismail handed the salt back to him and said, “Then I don’t want anything from you. I would like my money back.” So the guy jerks the salt out of his hand and stuffs the money into it and says, “That’s even better. Now get out!” (And here’s where I got pissed.) He shoved him toward the door.
Ismail went to his biggest competitor across the street and bought the salt there. When he came home he told me that he was so mad and he wanted to hit him but he didn’t. And he insisted that I go downstairs immediately and tell him what’s what. I told him I’d do it later but that I needed to make fitar (breakfast) first and that I would handle it later that night or the next day. Ismail wanted to come along and I told him I didn’t think it was a good idea. He was livid. He swore he’d never buy anything from that big jerk ever again. I told him that we’re not going to call names because it’s haram (forbidden) and this is a guy who is in his late 50’s or early 60’s. We need to calm down. I got him busy making juice and talking about other things and so it went. I didn’t go talk to the man last night. I waited until today.
I decided to take Ismail with me. As we were walking, we passed the masjid on our street where many people were praying the Taraweeh prayers (extra prayers said each night during Ramadan) and we noticed that the store owner was praying from a seated position near the door. He usually stands and bows and kneels with the younger men in the masjid. We kept walking and I told Ismail that maybe it would be best if we just go to the store and talk to the owner’s brother who also works there. That way he can act as an intermediary and present the issue to his brother with our concerns voiced but without the older man feeling as though he is being attacked. But his brother was not there. His son was. I spoke calmly and explained to the young man what had happened and he apologized for his father. I explained that I understand that the weather is so very hot and that the temperature inside the store is hotter than in the street. This combined with fasting can make for short tempers. However, as sassy and rotten as my kids are to me and each other at home, I know without a doubt that they do not get sassy and rude with elders. I have been complimented on this fact many times, even by the store owner. And if my son was out of line in any way, I will address the issue with him. But under no circumstances was the owner right in shoving him or touching him in any way.
The young man kissed Ismail on his forehead and apologized for his father’s behavior. “Tont (Aunt), I am so sorry. But my father is under great stress right now. You see, he took my uncle and niece and grandmother to a cousin’s wedding on the first of this month. I stayed here and ran the store overnight. They were in an accident on the way home and my father rolled the car 3 times. I left straight from here to the hospital and he didn’t even know that my grandmother, Allah bestow her His mercy, didn’t make it. I had to tell him when I arrived. My father has permanent damage to his spine and has broken ribs. My uncle broke his shoulder and my niece was cut across her lip and chin. My father went straight back to work and refuses to take any time off and if I suggest it, he yells at me or slaps me. But what can I do? He is my father. But if you would just forgive him. He is very angry and hurt and his nerves are not the same. And all that I can do is ask that Allah forgive him and give me patience to wait until my father is able to deal with this grief. You know that I love Ismail like my little brother and all of your children are always very respectful in this store. I’m so sorry.”
I told him that I understand and said “May Allah bless him with patience” and then bought a few cookies and things that we really didn’t need but as a gesture that we understand and are not taking our business elsewhere. When we left the store, I asked Ismail if he understood what all was happening in the store owner’s world. He said, “Wow. He has had a lot to deal with in just a few weeks. I wonder if he has cried yet.” I told him probably not or he wouldn’t be so angry and grouchy. We talked about PTSD and grief and rage and how sometimes people blame themselves for things that were destined to happen. I asked Ismail if he was upset that I didn’t go in yelling and screaming and that I bought from them. He said no. And that he understood that the best way to handle the situation was as I had done because it showed respect for everyone involved.
Thank God. I am doing something right.