Can Muslim and Christian neighbors be friends? I never thought such an opportunity would come to me.
We moved to a new neighborhood in the Phoenix area twelve years ago. As my husband and I settled into the new place, John said, “I met our next door neighbor today. I think he’s from the Middle East.”
“What’s his name? Does he have a wife? Any children?” I asked.
“I didn’t ask any questions. He’s nice though. He wore a business suit and told me he works for a large company in town. He travels a lot.”
I’d been too busy to meet anyone. I was going crazy with so many boxes to unpack and stuff to organize. But now I was curious about this neighbor. The next day, through a front window, I saw a woman, dressed in a long skirt and long-sleeved shirt with a colorful scarf wrapped around her head, walk to her mail box. Is that my neighbor?
One morning I babysat my grandson, pulling him around the block in a wagon. My new neighbor flew out of her house, ran up to us with her scarf billowing in the breeze and exclaimed, “Is this your boy? How are you? I’m Ann, welcome to the neighborhood!” Yes, she did say it all in one breath with a huge smile on her face. She knelt down and cooed at Preston. “Oh, aren’t you cute. What’s your name?”
We chatted for a few moments and I found out she taught special needs children and had two sons, one at medical school and a pre-teen. She left to run some errands and called back to me, “Let’s have tea sometime.”
There were many tea times over the years. Ann loved to talk and I was fascinated by her life story and found out how much we had in common:
She and I both loved cats and I do mean LOVED cats. She owned Ginger and I was owned by…Clifford.
We loved children and agreed they were the most precious beings God ever created.
We both privately prayed…a lot. Her favorite saying was, “Thanks be to God.” To which I responded, “Amen.” And we both laughed, honoring our different faiths.
We had the same crazy sense of humor, laughing like a couple of teen girls over the foibles of life.
We both struggle with chronic disease, which means we laugh more over our mishaps with the medical profession.
I think we bonded, as only neighbors can, when we searched the neighborhood for her twelve-year-old son’s cockatiel. The bird had escaped while Jim was at school. Walking down the street and peeking into backyards calling, “Baby, Baby!” may create a police confrontation but for sure create a friendship. Baby flew home hours later when she heard her garage door open, and later I held her while Jim clipped her wings.
Jim and my oldest grandson, Kyle, also twelve years, became good friends. In the summer they fished together for hours at the small pond down the street. Ann’s husband traveled a lot for business so we didn’t see him often.
Ann, as a child, came to America from Europe with her parents. She was raised back East and her religious background was Catholic. She became a Muslim in college, married a Muslim and lived in his country in the Middle East for a short time. For over twenty years they had made their home in America.
“Isn’t this a Christian nation? Why is the tree at school now called a Giving Tree and not a Christmas tree? Why don’t they sing Christmas carols anymore?” Ann called me on the phone with questions. I became her resource for religious questions in the mysterious world of Christian faith and America, not an easy task.
Within two years my husband and I moved to a smaller house when John retired. Ann and I stayed in touch even though she and her family moved out of the country for a year. We were happy for the internet and Facebook. Her text messages were laced with humor and love.
Ann and I are still having tea and scones since we live only ten miles apart. Off and on we meet at our favorite restaurant and regale one another with our funny tales of life. I am blessed that Ann is my dear friend.
Yes, a Christian and Muslim can be life-long friends.
The Bible says,
“…The Lord does not look at the things people look at.
People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)
I’d love to hear about your friendships and neighbors. What do you do to keep friendship alive and well in your life?