Last Thursday I tore myself away from my desk – the piles of notes and contracts for a film festival I’m producing, the rewrites of a short film series already overdue, the fundraising letter for a major documentary project – and did something REAL. I volunteered in a soup kitchen.
With a dozen other Muslims I donned an apron denoting “Muslims Against Hunger,” and helped out at the Community Soup Kitchen of Morristown. This soup kitchen is an ecumenical effort supported and run by funding and volunteers from 34 Christian and Jewish congregations, local and corporate from the greater Morristown area, and a smattering of Muslims led by Zamir Hassan, who was elected Vice President and Trustee of the Community Soup Kitchen in 2006. Mr. Hassan is coordinator of the Muslims Against Hunger Project (www.muslimsagainsthungerusa.org) and has succeeded in making New Jersey Muslims a regular presence in this important social service.
Muslims Against Hunger was serving hot lunches to working poor and homeless last September on a special “Muslims Serve Day” – honoring the victims and families of the tragedy of September 11, 2001. They were serving through the month of Ramadan, when helping to feed the hungry enhances the blessing of the fast. . .
So alongside Raheel, Salwa, Isa and Daoud, I set tables to accommodate 200 guests. We poured scores of glasses of milk. Sliced tens of loaves of bread. And finally, the best part, served hot tandoori chicken (from the Taj Restaurant in Edison), scented rice, corn, salad and dessert to lots and lots and lots of people. The line wrapped around the large fellowship hall annex of Morristown’s Church of the Redeemer.
It took no time to discover that many of the guests responded happily to hearing “Buenos dias” and “Feliz Navidad.” Two guests greeted us with “Salaam ‘alaykum,” the Muslim “hello” that translates as “peace be with you.” Men and women welcomed their lunch with dignity and smiles. Men and women served them lunch with humility and gladness.