An Age Old Trick to Stopping Violence

Shortly after 9/11, my family had a new neighbor. He was a former US marine, married and had two daughters. Shortly after they moved in, he made a 9/11 memorial that faced our house. My family is Muslim. Suffice to say, that was kind of weird. Things were tense for a while.

I spent a few days in Orlando following the massacre (that you may have already forgotten about). I answered the media’s questions on what Islam says about all this and was met with round after round of surprise. I spoke with people and they were shocked to hear that Islam is against violence.

Suffice to say, those responses are disheartening.

Those responses of shock and awe are a reason why violence happens. There’s a lack of knowledge.

I don’t mean a lack of knowledge of book smarts, rather there’s a lack of knowledge of people.

People don’t know people.

So here’s an age old trick. For thousands of years, people have been taught in some way, shape, or form to “be kind to your neighbor.” Neighbor has no adjective. It doesn’t say to be kind to your God-fearing neighbor, your black neighbor, your intelligent neighbor. It just says neighbor.

What does “be kind” entail? Kindness is defined as, “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” Wow, that’s a tall order!

Being friendly, generous, and considerate isn’t a matter of nodding to your neighbor every so often and ending it at that. The definition of kindness is about knocking on their door, seeing how they are, exchanging gifts, even mowing their lawn or shoveling their snow.

The tension between us and the neighbors was there. But both moms wouldn’t let such tension remain. When Thanksgiving rolled around, Mrs. Neighbor would bring over a homemade pumpkin pie. When our holidays rolled around, my mom would take over food. We shared food we barbecued, exchanged gifts during happy occasions, invited each other for celebratory moments. One stormy night during a hurricane, our power went out. Minutes later, we heard a loud knocking on the door. It was Mr. Neighbor. He came to check on us and asked if we needed to use his generator. The feelings felt that night were enough to light up the whole house.

The kindness flourished in the most unlikely of scenarios but in the most necessary of units: with neighbors.

If we took the time to be kind to our neighbors, then our neighborhoods would be the better for it. If our neighborhoods are better, then our cities are better. If our cities are better, then our states are better. If our states are better then our nation is better. If our nation is better than the world is better.

Think about all the injustice in the world. Think about how there’s so much conflict. Think about how it stems from people not knowing people. These problems on a macro-level are our fault for not being kind to our neighbor on a micro-level.

Take a step out of your comfort zone and go knock on your neighbor’s door. You could very well change the world.