It was almost ten o'clock and the babysitter was expecting us home anytime. As we walked to the car my heart was smiling. I had just dined with new friends at the mosque.
It was last Saturday night...just one week ago today. Several of us who knew the imam through some Interfaith planning had been invited to share an evening with the Islamic community here. We arrived, about an hour before sunset. We were ushered into the prayer room...men through one entrance, women another. We heard the story of an older gentleman who has lived in our community over 50 years - long before there was a local mosque. He spoke of acceptance and peace, of not having to apologize for his faith - things he's receive in our country and our community. Next the imam gave us some basic education about both Islam in general and Ramadan (the holy month they are currently celebrating) in specific.
Then the time came. We moved to the dining rooms and with our new friends we placed dates in our mouths to break the fast (their fast, not ours...I must admit I'd eaten way too much already that day). A quick snack, then a return to the prayer room for prayers at sunset, and finally back to the dining rooms for a meal and conversation.
No wonder my heart was smiling.
Then Monday morning came. As the boys and I were leaving the house my phone rang. It was a gentleman from our church. "The mosque is gone. It's burned to the ground," he said. He drives past there each morning on his way to work and called me as soon as he saw it.
My heart was sad.
All I could picture was the big eyed toddler holding her mama close...the preschool kids jumping off the stage with joy while their parents engaged in prayers...the woman with whom I had shared dinner conversation, talking about parenting and careers...the twins who had been on my own son's soccer team...the gentle imam caring for his congregation.
All I could picture was people with whom, although they worship differently than I, I am very much the same.