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Peace begins with a Smile

Peace begins with a Smile

Last Monday, I packed my two youngest sons (ages 3 and 5) up in our car and headed north to Disneyland. For a Midwest-born girl, there is no bigger treat than being able to drive from my home to Disneyland in a little over an hour. We spent the day playing and laughing, enjoying “snow” in the Frozen Fun zone, eating caramel apple treats, and singing along to Doc McStuffins at the Disney Junior Live show.

It was the end of our day and the boys begged me to go on “one more ride, please!” so we got in line for Monsters Inc. at California Adventure. Little did I know that shortly after we got in line, the ride would experience technical difficulties, making our wait longer than anticipated. The Disney cast members ensured us that the wait would not be too much longer, so we settled in. (Any mom of preschoolers can attest that when your kids have their mind set on a ride at Disneyland, sometimes the best thing to do is just wait it out!)

Maddox & Xavier began chatting with a little girl in line in front of us with her parents. She was proudly wearing a “Happy Birthday Sarah!” button, so I wished her a happy birthday.

All of this sounds fairly normal right? Two moms in line at Disneyland, opportunity to pass the time by talking about raising kids and growing families… except Sarah’s mom was wearing a hijab and I was not. She looked at me in anticipation, almost nervous to see if I was going to address her or not.

“When I smile at people, I no longer get smiles back. When I go about my day, I feel invisible when people do not hold open the door for me, avoid my eyes at the register, or willfully ignore my attempts at small talk. What used to be friendly waves and warm greetings have been replaced by cold stares and tight lips.”

So I smiled really big at Sarah’s mom and decided to strike up a conversation, asking if Sarah was already in kindergarten. Her mom replied excitedly that they recently completed registration and that they were working at home to get Sarah ready for school in the fall.  In the 30 minutes that would follow, we would cover every topic possible, including disciplining boys (she is expecting a baby boy in June!) and how to navigate motherhood with a new baby in the house. Sarah’s dad listened quietly to the whole conversation, smiling at our kids as they interacted.

When the ride was repaired, we let out a big cheer and our kids began to get antsy, chatting even louder and discussing who was going to “drive” the taxi on the ride. Sarah’s mom and I bid farewell. I told her I was going to pray for her baby on the way and gave her my vote of confidence that she would sail through going from one child to two in her house. She complimented me on the politeness of our boys and told me how blessed I am to have them.

This small act of friendliness took no heroics on my part. There was simply absolutely nothing intimidating about Sarah’s mom. I didn’t sign a peace treaty or change centuries of Muslim-Christian relations with one conversation. Motherhood is tough enough some days. Moms shouldn’t have to worry about what people are thinking of them based on what they are wearing or their religious affiliation. We are all in this together.

As a Christian woman/wife/mom/minister/friend, I am so grateful for the work of 2 Faiths 1 Friendship as the people there seek to bridge the gap between Muslims and Christians. Peace-building can start in small acts, like a conversation in line at Disneyland.