The sheer amount of negativity we see in the news can sometimes make us give up into despair. But every one in a while some event reminds us not to lose hope in our fellow humans and to keep striving for the values of respect and mutual understanding.
What happened to Leena Al-Rian, a young Muslim mom from Boston, is one of those events. She was at a downtown Barnes & Noble boobkstore with her two adorable little girls, ages 4 and 1, when a 90 years old man, Lenny, approached her and apologized for the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment in the country.
Leena was deeply touched by the man’s words as he expressed his dismay at the spread of hatred and xenophobia in America. He told the story of his Jewish immigrant parents who came to this country and did not speak a word of English. She felt sincerity in his words and saw that he was struggling to hold his tears. He even offered to buy gifts for her little daughters.
Leena took a picture with Lenny and posted it on Facebook along with a very touching account of their encounter:
So this happened today at Barnes & Noble: I went to take the kids to meet the Paw Patrol characters and this nice man approached me, told me how beautiful the girls are, and conveyed a heartfelt apology for the general anti-Muslim sentiment in our society today. He had tears in his eyes and told me that it must be so hard to turn on the news, that he feels awful about the bigotry my kids might one day experience, and that as a Jewish man whose parents didn’t speak any English growing up, he personally understands what it feels like to be rejected and discriminated against. I asked if I could give him a hug (he looked like he needed one more than me, but I guess I needed one too) and he wanted to reassure me that most Americans are decent people who don’t hate people like me or believe what they hear on the news. He then told me he’s turning 90 on Friday and insisted on buying each of the kids a present as a gift for himself and so they can have something to remember him by. I told him we should just take a picture instead so I can tell them the story one day (he accepted) but insisted on buying them gifts anyway afterwards.
After the experience I told my friend Jes and we both laughed about how it sounded like one of those heartwarming Facebook stories about random acts of kindness and that it even sounded a little too on-the-nose. She suggested I share it to add to what I guess is our modern day chicken soup for the anti-racist soul. I said people will probably think my account got hacked because it’s not nearly cynical enough but here’s a picture and it happened.
Oh, and happy birthday, Lenny!