Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Ninth Month

The cicadas were screaming tonight as we pedaled the last leg of our bike ride. It was just after sunset, and there was the thinnest claw of a moon in the porcelain berry sky. It reminded me that the lunar month of Ramadan started yesterday, and I thought about how long these end-of-summer days will be for those who fast around here. When we lived in Saudi Arabia, the prevailing culture was Islamic, and so the pace of life there changed to accommodate Ramadan. As with most religious holidays, there are customs and traditions that mark the season, and at its heart, it is meant to be a month of celebration rather than self-deprivation.

Here in the U.S., my sixth grade students who are Muslim are on the cusp when it comes to observing this month of fasting. At their age fasting is not required, but for many of them it is a rite of passage just to attempt to abstain from eating and drinking from daybreak until dusk. Unlike the faithful who live in Islamic countries, these kids try to keep their fast among peers and teachers who may not be aware of, much less understand, their devotion, and so the temptations can be many. On the other hand, I've seen what a positive impact it can have simply to acknowledge Ramadan and encourage any students who are fasting.

Usually, the more significant the situation, the harder it is to be in the minority, and the actions of those in the majority can make all the difference. How we behave as a member of the dominant group is a good measure of any of us.

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