When I was in fifth grade, I was to write a report about an inspiring living person of our day. One of the few known inspirational Muslims of the time that I anxiously wanted to write about was Muhammad Ali.
Let’s back track for a moment, I never followed his work inside the ring. I was inspired by his actions outside of the ring. The man that refused to be drafted and didn’t flinch when threatened with jail and loss of finances. The man that did not shy from speaking about Islam and against Islamophobia in all it’s forms. The man that didn’t allow a disease define him, consume him or stop him from being the activist that he was.
He was the man that floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee.
That particular quote of his resonated with me throughout my entire youth. It wasn’t just a quote on how he fought in the ring but a quote on how he went about with the struggles of life. I was reminded of that quote through my tough times as a child, bullied for being small and poor. I was reminded of that quote through my middle school years when I decided to dun the hijab. I’m was reminded of that quote during high school when anything that could go wrong did.
By the time I was 18, my personality became stronger. My outlook on life became brighter. It wasn’t going to be easy but I had the right to be full of goals, dreams and was confidently mapping out my strategy. I was going to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Just like Muhammad Ali.
May he rest in God’s eternal peace and light… Ameen.
Sometimes it’s the little things in life that can make a huge difference in one’s day. As I sit here after hearing of the passing of the comedic legend Robin Willams, I’m not reminded of his movies or his stage performances. I’m reminded of an incident in my childhood.
After my parents divorce, my mother took a few dead end jobs to make ends meet. She landed a job at one of the Toys R Us shops in San Francisco. It wasn’t far from home and the schedule worked well for her as she was not only caring for us five kids, she had taken in my ill grandfather as well. It wasn’t much pay wise but it was a steady something a single mother could find until something better came along.
The first time Robin came to her register to purchase a few things, everyone was star struck, in awe at the local comedic celebrity amongst them. It didn’t phase my mother but she knew whom he was as we were huge fans of his. She remained professional and they had small talk about the day, the city and the items he was purchasing. Soon enough, whenever he frequented the shop, he always made his way to my mother’s register. She never asked for a picture or an autograph (this is way before social media mind you), she didn’t want to make him uncomfortable. He was one of her favorite customers and she knew this simple customer/cashier interaction was better than anything she would’ve asked of him. She would come home happy whenever he had visited and go one about how he was such a kind soul.
He will always be known to us San Franciscans as the local resident whom always gave back. He supported every cause that gave back to the city and it’s inhabitants. He started Comic Relief, performed many times over for charity and brought awareness to the many issues within our city as well as our nation.
Robin, thank you for making my single mother’s days at a dead end job eventful. Thank you for caring and making us care about our communities. Thank you for the laughs, the tears and the joy. You are already missed.
I’m obligated to include and share the below image in this post as someone whom has worked with individuals suffering all forms of mental illnesses, including depression.