We must be ‘loud with our goodness’ and not succumb to fear

Categories: Guest Views

Winter 2005. I was driving to Avon, Minnesota, to visit a friend and his family. Adding to the many “first times” of my life, I found myself driving through a thick and flaky snowfall. A few miles later, I witnessed a sudden urgency in the snowfall. Abruptly, I came to realize all that I took for granted regarding well-lit, spacious city roads.

ayan-omar

Ayan Omar

As I examined the narrow country road, my mind desperately examined all the worst possibilities. Then, I found a lifeline in the high beams. As fear and panic sat in the driver’s seat with me, I found comfort in turning the high beams on and off every few miles. Unfortunately, the high beams worked as a thick zoom lens on the falling snow and worked against my ability to see. Years after traveling through my first Minnesota snowfall, I ponder the effects of fear on our ability to reason, accept, love and change.

I was born in Somalia in December 1988, and my family of nine and I arrived in America as refugees in 1993. Through the years, my family has grown in size and I have made strides in education, language, acculturation and assimilation. I have built an “America” for myself.

In middle school, while participating in my favorite childhood pastime — doodling — I created what I know today as “my” America. I would turn any blank side of a paper horizontally and draw a bright yellow sun on the far top right corner, including the beaming sunrays, and draw a house on top of nice green grass that gave life to one flower that sat under a huge, flourishing tree.

Every artistic creation made me feel like a respected artist. And, prior to 9/11, Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabab and ISIS, I had the ability to doodle “my” America unnoticeably. However, unfortunate recent events have created a snowfall of hate, fear and panic in the hearts of many. As a result, I find myself reaching for my high beams in the hope that I, and others like me, may make it to our destination — The American Dream — while we travel a seemingly lonesome, country road.

Free from fear

As an educator, I wholeheartedly participate in liberating the minds of our children from fear. Education is much more than books and calculations. Education has to be envisioned as a collective and collaborative process that you cannot find only in the classroom. In my class, I make an effort to safeguard my students’ ability to think out loud, ask questions out loud, and, in general, be loud, appropriately.

It is my philosophy that our goodness has to be louder than all the bad news we are being fed. In a world where bad news unwelcomingly invites itself into our home, we must engage in a communal discussion with our neighbors. Our fear of the events in Paris, California, Syria and Minneapolis inhibit us to fulfill our common greatest commandment of all — to love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31).

We cannot take care of the world or prevent the disasters of the world if we cannot love ourselves and, literally, our neighbor. I challenge my students to love themselves loudly, because once they feel great about themselves, then they can learn and accept their neighbor — the student next to them.

As a practicing Muslim-American, I neither fear nor hate Donald Trump, or anyone who spreads hate about my religion or my birthplace.

In essence, I pray five times a day. I smile at grocery stores. I hold the door open for the person behind me. I show my appreciations sincerely. I make time for others. I wave to my neighbor, and I always ask, “What can I do here in St. Cloud, Minnesota, to spread love?” Because as Martin Luther King, Jr. said — and my mother often reiterates — “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

During the last 28 years of my life, I have spent 19 years in America. Learning has always been one of my strong attributes. I was that inquisitive kid that uncles and aunts often shooed away like a fly. It is this trait that allows me to participate in interfaith dialogue, interracial dialogue and intercultural dialogue. I passionately believe that learning will drive out many of my personal unknown fears so that I can fill that void with compassion and understanding.

Many of God’s greatest creations, such as prophets, rulers, priests, imams, inventors and healers, have all passed on, and we will not be an exception to the process. However, we are here together; so let us be loud with our goodness together. After all, there is way more goodness in our world than bad. We must not empower mass communication to cloud the goodness in humanity for us.

I challenge you to love yourself, speak to your neighbor about faith, family and love while making certain that you are present through active listening. Such loving acts quickly spread like a Minnesota snowfall — when it falls, it falls everywhere and stays six to 12 inches deep.

Ayan Omar is a Somali-American living in St. Cloud. She teaches language arts at Technical High School in St. Cloud.