WalMart: A Place to Pray

Many years ago, when I lived in Nashville, TN, I worked at WalMart with a significant number of Kurdish people. Nashville, believe it or not, has the largest Kurdish population in the United States next to NYC, or so I have been told. By and large, the Kurdish people I encountered were warm, funny, hard workers. When I first started working at WalMart, some were wary of me, but that is understandable considering some of the verbal abuse they suffered as Muslims at the hands of rude, rowdy customers. Once, someone even spit on the woman who worked in the infants department.

One of the difficulties the Kurdish workers faced was finding a place to pray during their shifts. Even the bathroom isn’t all that private, not to mention filthy. How does one honor Allah with clean hands if one must lay their prayer rug on a floor soiled with urine?

To solve this problem, some of them came to the fitting room, where I worked, and asked to use the handicapped room to pray. I always let them in without hesitation. If I can facilitate someone uplifting their spirit and communicating with their god, I am happy to do it.

One of the women, Zulaihkah, told me that the woman who worked the shift before me wouldn’t let them in to pray. She made no bones about the fact that she didn’t like Muslims and in her small, power-hungry way, was thrilled to do what she could to hinder the practice of their religion.

That is anathema to me. To this day I don’t understand it. What pleasure can one derive from denying someone the practice of their faith? What god would pat you on the back for making another human’s life more difficult? Who would want to serve such a god?

It may be that it wasn’t any kind of religions compunction she had at all. It is entirely possible that she was just mean. It happens.

In relating her trouble with the first shift fitting room lady, Zulaihkah told me that every time I opened the door for her or for anyone else who wanted to pray, Allah blessed me. I smiled the widest smile.

One day we were extremely busy. The fitting room attendant at WalMart also handles the phone which, on that day, was ringing off the hook. People were coming in by the droves and bad attitudes abounded. (Side note: please don’t abuse WalMart employees even if they’re grumpy. You have no idea how many verbal assaults they suffer every day.) In the midst of this chaos Zulaihkah came to me and said, “Just hand me the keys and I will let myself in.”

“Oh no!” I said. “I need all the blessings I can get.” And I meant it. I opened the door for her and soon after everything settled down.

I don’t know Allah at all, but my hope is that Zulaihkah told me true that day and somewhere in his books I’ve got a few ticks in the good column. None of us know what the true religion is, if there is one, so if, upon dying, I find myself facing Allah, I will have at least these little things to show for my life.

When you can be of service to others in the practice of their religion, even if it’s a religion you don’t understand, be of service. Do right. It benefits both them and you immediately and may benefit you again in the great beyond. Plus, it feels good. It plain feels good.


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Happy Halloween! Stingy Jack Gets a Modern Makeover

The saying goes: The Devil always overplays his hand.

No matter what religious tradition you come from, or if you come from no religious tradition at all–no matter what devil bedevils you–he always overplays his hand. We must be wary, however, not to overplay ours first.

Gather ‘round this All Hallows’ Eve and let us spookily spook together. Let us woooo! like ghosties. Let us boogie boogie.

Here is the tale of Stingy Jack, the progenitor of the Jack-O-Lantern. There are many versions of this tale. Here is mine.

Once upon a time in a SoCal desert town, not too long ago as a matter of fact, there lived in a rough part of town a man named Jack who was known all over for his stinginess, temper, chronic drunkenness, and general bad attitude. One night, drunk and trolling the city streets for a date, Stingy Jack came across a man in black leaning against a light pole. The man looked out of place, dressed as he was and wearing a hat with the brim cocked down over his face. What Jack could see of his face was diabolically bathed in the orange light of the streetlight.

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Charity Not Under Duress: Doing It Right

Almost six years ago now I lived in Oklahoma with an ex and his son. We were poor. We were very poor. We were on food stamps, housing assistance, disability, etc. We had several outstanding loans with family. Come the middle and end of each month, we traded twenties with our dear neighbors because their assistance checks came in on opposite weeks than ours. Even with all of this help, some months we still couldn’t manage to make ends meet.

About a year after I moved to Oklahoma, I had to go to a food bank for the first time in my life. My pride smarted fiercely. I had a fight with my ex the morning I had to go. My heart broke. My soul ached.

As I am legally blind and cannot drive, our dear neighbor, who was also in need, drove us both to the food bank. The charity was run by a local church of nondescript Christian denomination. In order to receive food, you were required to fill out an application asking basic questions like your name and address, how many people lived in your house, and your relationship to them. I was honest and answered that I was living with a man to whom I was not married, though I worried my honesty would prevent me from receiving assistance.

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Charity Under Duress: A Nonbeliever on Wrong-Believers

Human trafficking is a huge problem where I live yet, woefully, there are very few organizations that serve those victimized by it. I recently had occasion to donate goods to a deserving charity and, having moral compunctions about donating to either Goodwill or The Salvation Army, I looked around for a local organization serving women who are coming out of trafficking situations. I only found one.

This organization, which I will not name here, helps those victimized by human trafficking by offering them lists of the legal and physical resources available to them, giving them bags of toiletries and various sundries, helping them with resumes and job searches, offering a limited residential program, and proselytizing to them on the street. At this last bit I shudder. While I would rather have these women receive services than not, my heart grieves that they are only deemed worthy of the service if they are already Christian, ready to accept Christ, or willing to say they accept Christ. It also excludes helping men who are victims of sex trafficking because, in the sect of Christianity that runs this charity, homosexuality is a sin.

While I admire their willingness to put their faith where their mouths are, it angers me to think of them withholding potentially life-saving goods and services from those who are unwilling to conform to their beliefs. I have a similar issue with The Salvation Army.

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Oh My Heavens: Full Moon in Aries

Today the full moon finds herself in Aries. It’s a time for action, Jackson!

Ruled by Mars, Aries is all about fiery forward intent, drive, push, and going the distance. Take advantage of this energy and get things done, or, at the very least, start getting things done.

Perhaps make a list of projects you would like to complete at work, at home, at the gym, etc., and take one big step in that direction.

Moon may I? Aries says you may.

You don’t have to run to the finish all at once. Putting that kind of pressure on yourself only causes anxiety and eventually paralysis. Instead, make only that first step. With Aries behind you, it is bound to count for at least ten.

Most of all, enjoy the burst of energy and drive. Beat your chest in the full moon’s light. You are strong, You are fierce. You have so got this.


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Orion Writes Religion

Orion Constellation Zeus, Poseidon, and Hermes loved king Hyrieus so much they provided him an heir by urinating on a bull hide and burying it. Out of the piss and dust, Orion was born. He became a great hunter. So great was Orion, in fact, that he ended up the world’s leading constellation, aligner of the pyramids, 1980’s motion picture company, and the place from which the ancient aliens came to inspire humanity to do all the good things humans have ever done—or so say the alien people.

In November, senior year of college, during that blissful season between midterms and finals, Marjorie and I spent our weekend nights driving around in the toolie bushes surrounding Nashville trying to get lost. Miraculously, before cell phones, before GPS, we always managed to find our way home. The same roads that all led to Rome apparently also led to either West End Ave. or 21st St., downtown, and Vanderbilt University.

Marjorie was a Yankee and I a SoCal girl—as close to aliens as two blondes in a late model beige Ford Taurus could be.

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Adventures in Nash Vegas: The Holy Loop

Spirit is spirit everywhere.

Standing on the porch of some broke-down frat house never held much appeal for M. or I. Solo cups so the campus fuzz wouldn’t know what you were drinking even though they did know. Vomiting on the lawn. Getting fucked in the back room. Being told who to blow by your sisters. Walk of shame the next day. Bad white-boy Hip-Hop.

We would ride by the houses on our way home from being out in the world and lament, “Oh, I could have had so much more fun.”

Our favorite thing was to get lost—break free of the Vander-bubble and find our way to losing our way. We had a route southward, down 21st Ave., way past where it turned into Hillsboro Rd. All the way down to Mack Hatcher Memorial Pkwy, (whoever he was). A left turn there, past the newly minted Mormon temple we had both toured during the open house, wore the little booties placed on our feet by kneeling missionaries, and surprised ourselves at how much color was inside.

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