As we recently passed the holy month of Ramadan; the month of blessings and humility, I wanted to share a story from my travels.
A few years ago, I travelled to Rome for some Data Architecture training with my employer. I had it booked in my diary for months and I was really looking forward to it. #nerdalert
Not just because I am excited by data architecture. But also, because I hadn’t travelled to Rome before.
I arrived at the airport on Sunday and I was mobbed by a few unlicensed taxi drivers. Needless to say, it very much reminded me of my travels to Mumbai.
A colleague of mine faced a similar issue and that had tainted my opinion of the city.
I spent a little bit of time in the city, sightseeing on Sunday and I found a lot of ticket touts or people trying to sell stuff to unsuspecting tourists. I’m always cautious when I’m travelling, so I just generally got on with my day.
I also hadn’t realised until the week before when I was booking my accommodation that the office was miles away from the city centre #facepalm.
This meant that I ended up having to stay at a hotel off the beaten track, eating room service or at a hotel restaurant for the week.
A colleague of mine and I tried to venture out into the suburbs to find authentic Italian restaurants, however, this failed every other night.
And THE one night I ordered on Just Eat, I was told off by the hotel reception staff – as apparently, that was against their policy(?)
Although the course was fantastic, I must admit that I didn’t enjoy the evenings much!
On the final day of the course, we finished by mid-day.
It also happened to be Friday, the 15th of March 2019.
If you know me, then you know that I take an hour out each Friday to accommodate my prayers.
And why is the date important? I will get there!
Because I was so far from the city and generally from normal city-like civilisation; I took the opportunity with open arms to find a local mosque to offer my prayers.
A mosque, in the heart of the catholic capital? I had a similar misconception.
Rome actually has a beautiful, large mosque (accommodating 12,000 people) with a vibrant Muslim community.
I wasn’t aware of this before my travels, mainly because I hadn’t spent enough time in the city.
I called a taxi and made my way to the mosque with my luggage.
I saw a lot of people entering the mosque, as is the case normally on Friday prayers. The mosque itself was awe-inspiring.
I walked up to the gates of the mosque, and I was denied entry by the security team.
My heart sank.
Remember the date, I told you about?
On this day, hours earlier, there was a mass shooting at another mosque in another part of the world.
The New Zealand Christchurch mosque shooting killed 51 people at the Friday prayers. Security had been heightened across other major mosques in the western capitals.
As a result, no one was allowed in the mosque with large pieces of luggage. In my case, a 5 nights suitcase.
I was distraught, as I knew, I probably wouldn’t be returning to Rome anytime soon. And I certainly wouldn’t get another opportunity to pray at this beautiful mosque.
I tried reasoning with the security guards and asked whether they would keep my travelling luggage in their cabin, and I would of course carry my laptop bag with me.
They refused, as they didn’t want to be held liable for the suitcase.
In the midst of this discussion, a gentleman walked up to me and offered to keep the luggage.
I was pleasantly surprised, relieved….and concerned, all at the same time.
He looked like an ordinary bloke that had come to the mosque, but because of my earlier endeavours in the city, I was being overly cautious with anyone offering help.
It’s one thing to leave your luggage with people of authority at the gate where they can identify themselves, and another to leave it with a stranger.
One out of the many thousands that were praying at the mosque, this gentleman had a car and had offered to keep the luggage in the boot of his car.
I felt uneasy, as I didn’t know him or know what to expect.
I started to consider handing over my luggage. I mean, the worst-case scenario would be that my luggage would go missing and I’d lose a few shirts. All my valuables like my notebook, mobile phone, and passport would be in my laptop bag with me at all times.
I decided to take the risk. You may be thinking that this was a foolish move. Others may be thinking, how bad it is of me to judge this helpful person that has come to my aid.
What happened next was unthinkable!
We walked up to his car, he opened the boot, I put my suitcase into the boot, he closed the boot of the car and locked up.
He then proceeded to hand me his car keys.
What I hadn’t realised, whilst imagining the worst-case scenario in my head; far from judging me, he accepted the best-case scenario in his head.
He didn’t judge me that I was somehow going to steal his car, he simply saw a fellow worshipper in need and helped out. He then saw a fellow worshipper worried and then he alleviated that worry.
I felt ashamed and humbled at the same time.
I didn’t want to take the car keys, however, he insisted.
We ended up having a chat about the mosque and the local Muslim community in whatever broken English he could speak and in my poor Arabic. He mentioned how he has lived in Rome for 10+ years with his family and he was originally from Morocco.
After the prayers finished, we both walked back finishing the conversation.
I thanked him for his generosity and apologised if I had offended him in any way by my earlier behaviour.
He simply said, not to worry and he didn’t feel offended at all. It was somewhat funny for him at the time.
The moral of the story is not that we shouldn’t always be cautious. It is simply that we should give the people the benefit of the doubt more often than we normally do.
Everyone is leading their own lives in their own ways and trying to do the little good that they get the opportunity to do.
So, take part in doing good and humble yourself in situations such as this.
This post didn’t have much to do with consulting or data, just a personal reflection on lessons I have learned in my journey.
If you’re still reading this, I hope you’ve found some value in this blog post.
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