Merry Christmas America!
I bring tidings of great joy from the Arabian Peninsula (even though I’m currently in Vermont). These tidings come courtesy of my beloved colleague Dr. Abdulhaq, who is originally from Iraq but has been a resident of the U.A.E. for some time now.
Dr. Abdulhaq and I traveled to Philadelphia for a conference in early December. We had the most delightful time talking with people at the event and enjoyed a meal together at a local Middle Eastern restaurant with our fellow delegates from Ajman University.
After dinner that night, still seated at our table, Dr. Abudlhaq sang an Iraqi folk song — the lyrics of which included the line, “I’ll carry you across the river on my head.” He teared up singing the phrase, thinking of his hometown of Mosul and the suffering of his country. People who didn’t survive the river of war.
Back in Ajman after the conference, I asked Dr. Abduhlaq what he thought of America. I braced myself for his answer, considering the anti-Islam sentiment coming out of our central government.
“Americans are the most wonderful and friendly people in the world,” he grinned. “You ask someone for directions, and they’ll happily help you.”
“Carry you across the river on their head, so to speak?” I asked.
He nodded, eyes a little watery.
These are the tidings of great joy based on the kindness of American strangers to an Arab visitor in the City of Brotherly Love. The very same message a Nazareth-born Jewish boy named Jesus carried for all to hear: Peace on earth, goodwill to all.