A huge thing that Ramadan brings with it is patience . And as easily and effortlessly as it comes for the first Ashra, just as easily it leaves for the third and in some cases, the second Ashra. Pretty much what happens to a lot of fizzy, effervescent efforts.
Could the reason be that we start Ramadan at an unimaginably high-performance speed? The kind of speed that our body and mind aren’t used to? Because let’s be all honest here in the safety of this blog post! We aren’t that patient the rest of the year. Now if we had just practiced that patience a little more the rest of the year too. May be! Perhaps!
Or could the reason be this overzealous attitude of having the type of patience in Ramadan that knows no bounds? . We just go above and beyond and spend our days being patient in the face of everything….. even blatant unfairness. We don’t say a word to someone cutting the line, or stepping rudely on our toe and not apologizing or people being loud right when you’re praying. Patience doesn’t mean subservience to other humans and taking people’s bad behavior on the chin and displaying it like a medal on our chest. No! That’s not patience. Patience isn’t about taking repeated emotional assault and silently accepting it.
Or may be we run out of patience faster during Ramadan because to some of us we are “starving”? Yes, that’s true. Don’t think everyone walks into Ramadan with the spirit of a devout Muslim who is connecting with Ramadan spiritually in hopes of connecting with Allah spiritually. Some people actually do it as just another social ritual.
But who am I to lecture, right? I mean, if anything, I used to be worse than anyone I know . My patience had a shorter fuse than yours, or yours or even yours. The lack of sleep combined with little food and hydration was enough to wake the baby in me. A tantrum-prone baby. I wanted things to be just so in order to keep my cool. I expected people to read my mind. I was curt, if not openly rude with my family. Yes! Every Ramadan I vowed to be better. Few days into Ramadan, I became a bitter and on-the-edge version of my regular self.
I used to blame it on the food. My mom would gently remind me that it couldn’t have been food. I wasn’t a regular meal eater ever, so in her opinion, I was already physically perfect and set for Ramadan from a food standpoint. I didn’t show I needed much food the rest of the year. “It’s something else”, she said. “You’re not a sarcastic person but you become sarcastic in this holiest of month. I think you become disagreeable in the one month that people choose to be only agreeable in. I think this is where you could use some of your soul-searching skills for”.
In my head I was thinking, “Is she kidding me? This is what she recommends for me to do? Soul-searching?”
Mama said, ” Tell you what? I am going to go to a neighborhood school for kids with Down’s syndrome who also have some cognitive problems. I wanted to donate some Iftar items for the teachers. May be you can see how much patience these teachers use to teach their students”.
You can imagine what a cocky xennial/millennial was thinking ” Why would a teacher get credit for patience? That’s their job.”
Well I did accompany my mom to the place. And because there were other people too there she stayed to chat. She requested the Principal if I could may be sit in one or two classrooms for an hour or two and see a little about special education.
To say that we know what special education is and how it affects our children is one thing but to see special ed teachers in action is the eye-opening experience that we all need for some grounding back to reality. I saw teachers working with teenagers who were still learning to write and read. In a country with huge financial challenges, I’m sure they were not getting compensated for their time and effort ideally. But their enthusiasm to make a difference was palpable. The selflessness of this act wasn’t lost even on a self-absorbed person like me.
Of all the things that I noticed and that I think my mom hoped for me to pick on was the patience that the teachers displayed in the face of their students’ huge cognitive challenges. Can you imagine how hard it is to redirect a student about ten times in a five minute span? Only to have that student have a meltdown because something didn’t make sense to them or because of their inherent sensory issues. Can you imagine getting the student’s emotions back together and guiding them back to their work? All the while with only patience to rely on and only patience available to channel? May be you can but I couldn’t imagine it then. And continued to not know how patience can become a part of us when practiced enough times until Allah blessed me with a child with autism and significant intellectual and cognitive challenges.
If I can pick one skill that special needs requires to deal with it and to remain optimistic about a child’s development and achievements and to live a “normal” life, it’s patience. Patience gets you through all of it. Without patience, you can lose focus, not count your blessings, make yourself sad and let special needs run your life. Also, a lack of this particular trait along with gratitude can make you neglect your other kids. When we combine patience with fortitude, gratitude, acceptance and an appreciation of our problems being much more manageable than others in a similar situation, we get perspective. This perspective helps us be positive. So ultimately, what patience does is bring positivity.
My life-long quest for patience and the inability to develop it organically ended with my child’s autism. Her autism showed me how much patience nature demands from me in order to help her navigate our world. And I didn’t become patient in a day. No way! It took years to make patience a part of my personality. But it ultimately did become a part of it. And when it became a part of me, I started to extend it to other people also. Organically! Not forcibly! It just became a part of who I am. And I’m still trying to get better at it because we can never be too patient. I homeschool my daughter so my patience has to be available always. No holidays from this most important human quality. I practice patience when she isn’t getting something right after repeated attempts at it or if she has a meltdown and she can’t communicate or if I can’t explain to her why she can’t have something. Imagine the patience required by her teachers who aren’t even her biological parents.
Now I get how those teachers were so patient. They were practicing it everyday. Yes I saw them in Ramadan but they had been forgiving and patient and accommodating all year long with their students. This is how they became the teachers who could make a difference.
In order to have the most benefit from Ramadan and in order to make the most of this month, we need to start practicing all sawab-garnering practices way in advance and continue them after Ramadan also. This is the only way to maintain our momentum during this most rewarding month. Otherwise, we run out of gas soon after starting.