Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Last night I was talking to my mom and mom-in-law about this friend - Fatima - I had in the Brooklyn Ghetto. I met her when I worked in the local pharmacy/health food store. She was this really amazing artist, a deeply religious woman of the Bahai faith. She was a Christian American who converted.
She had cancer in her nose, and the doctors totally had to dig in there and get it all out. It ended up making this whole mess of her face, which she accepted with grace. I remember her face covered in bandages, tubes sticking out of everywhere. When the bandages came off and the tubes came out, a beautifully scarred woman emerged.
She had art internships in China and Africa, and sub-let her Brooklyn apartment when she wasn't in town. One time she came to visit me at my place, and saw Yaakov's tefillin bag sitting on the table. She asked if it was a learning pillow. I laughed and explained it was my husband's phylacteries. In the rural village in China - where she taught - the students had a special embroidered pillow they would bring to school to sit on when they learned.
In her religion there is something called "friendship day," where adherents give their friends little tokens and gifts. Fatima gave me a little gift bag from Clinique. It was really touching and sweet.
Somehow, over time we lost touch. She went back to China - she even sent me a letter from there. Everybody loses touch with friends, even ones we get close with. It seems to be an unfortunate part of life. But my situation was a little different. I wasn't sure if I wanted to sustain a deep relationship with a non-Jewish woman. My life as a religious Jew gets so intense - with so many facets - it's almost hard to relate to a non-Jewish person. My life of holidays and shabbosim, cycles of family life, kashrus...millions of details, all flowing outward from Torah. And on a deeper level, I wonder, how could a non-Jew really understand me, on a soul-level? So it was more than she went to China. Even on the spiritual level, we were miles and miles apart.
But last night I was thinking of this wonderful, courageous woman. I tried to search myself out, to understand the reasons behind my choice to let the friendship go. I wondered if I was being closed-minded. I wondered if I made the wrong choice.
Today, I took my kids to the playground and I met this really nice lady with 2 kids. She was obviously a non-Jew - the huge cross around her neck alerted me to that (not that I needed a visual to figure it out). We talked about childbirth, staying home with kids, being in a one-income family, her interracial relationship with her husband. We talked a lot. She said she felt lonely, all of her friends were single with no kids. I liked her. I toyed with the idea of giving her my number, but the same Fatima-feelings came up. How can I truly relate to this woman? I wasn't sure if I wanted to start something.
But she was really nice, I thought. And maybe I should try and be friends with someone outside my realm. I gave her my number, but I didn't ask for hers. I figured if she calls me, she calls me. If she doesn't, she doesn't. I tried.
It's all Hashgocho Protis.