I bumped into an old friend today. A lovely, bubbly Muslim girl with a radiant smile so engaging that it once got her nominated for Britain’s Brightest Smile competition.
We bump into each other every now and then along the years and our chance reunions are always the same . . . both of us gasping, flinging our arms around each other and squeezing hard. We even do that giggly, girlie squealing thing, jumping up and down together whilst hugging the breathe out of each other. We always insist that we will make efforts to get together and catch up but you know, life takes over and before you know it, another few years have passed.
Today our greeting was the same but this time we actually had time to sit and chat. We recalled our school-days and some of the antics we got up to such as the time when we started a soggy paper-towel fight in the girls loo’s and when we saw a teacher approaching we both hid in the showers together, desperately trying not to giggle and later denying all knowldege. And we laughed when we remembered how we didn’t feel a single prick of conscience when all the class had to sit through a lunch-time detention because we refused to own up that it was us two who locked the geography teacher in the storeroom when she went in to get some books. Oh such anarchy!
For all our school-day frivolities, she has become a responsible and multi-tasking mother and wife. She’s worked hard over the years looking after her parents and tending to her kids while studying to become a social worker. Her achievements are impressive. At her own insistence her three kids all attend state school rather than an Islamic one. She felt strongly that they should not be isolated from other cultures and she wanted them to be respectful of other religions – Christianity and Jesus in particular.
What was extra special about our chat today was that she told me I had been a positive influence on her life at school, not least because she never expected a white girl to want to be friends with her. And I’m sure I glowed when she told me of how she often tells her children about her “lovely Christian friend” (me!!) when trying to teach them about the importance of cohesion and tolerance towards the non-Muslim kids at school. I’m not wanting to sound morally superior or anything, it’s just that sometimes we are unaware that our actions are having a positive and lasting effect and perhaps there is a lesson to be learned. I know I learned a lot from her. Her family encountered some hostility when they arrived here and understandably it made them defensive and withdrawn but my merry little Muslim friend was forever open-minded and sunny and when I started at the school as a shy and timid mouse, she embraced me and we became great friends.
Anyway, eventually, we both latched onto different friendship groups but the bond was sealed and we thought the world of each other. Seeing her today made me glow with fondness and I’m not ashamed to say, I felt a touch of pride too.