The day after our 45th President's travel ban took effect in the DC area, members of both River Road and Cedar Lane UU congregations were invited to attend fellowship time and worship with the Muslim Community Center of Montgomery County. In the midst of this uncertain and tumultuous time, we've been diving deeply into the holy work of connection with our Muslim brothers and sisters.
The moment the invitation went out, some of us started wondering about the details. After all, we wanted to get it right. Would there be too many of us so that we would descend on the cookies our Islamic neighbors laid out for us like so many locusts? Should we carpool – you know, traffic, and perhaps most poignantly, what should we wear?
After all, in the practices of the Muslim Community Center, it is tradition for women to wear head coverings. And so we went to our closets and we dug out our good scarves. And some of us – faced with the fashion uncertainty, went shopping. Among those shoppers were our own beloved Vic and Eva Wheeler, along with their perfectly marvelous daughter Brennan. Here in one of the most diverse counties in America, Eva went to a shop specializing in clothing for Muslim women.
And while she was shopping, asking for what they needed while also uncertain of what they needed and charged by her gender-nonconforming wife to find a “butch hijab,” she must have seemed just out of place enough to merit gentle questioning. The woman behind the counter, ever so graciously, asked what they were purchasing the headcoverings for.
When Eva told her it was because they were going with their church to pray in solidarity with the Muslim community, the saleslady stopped what she was doing, embraced her twice, and asked her to come back tomorrow to receive hand-selected shawls as personal gifts from her.
The next day Eva did indeed come back, and she left that shop with three shawls, given as gifts, from a new friend who showed her just how to wear them before simply saying, “pray for us; God bless you,” to the teary, grateful heart of one who stood, and bowed, and surely did hold that Muslim shopkeeper in her prayers among us all that Friday night.