I was walking through the streets of a city that I have been blessed to visit—except it didn’t really feel like a blessing. Everywhere I looked people were yelling, people were fighting and worst of all they were invading my little bubble of privacy that had been unaltered all the years that I was in the United States. I couldn’t even begin to comprehend why there were so many annoying, disrespectful people in one place, and I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Why are there no nice welcoming people here?” I asked myself this question for quite some time (not just hours or days…but months!). And finally I realized that the problem wasn’t the people that I was around; it was my perception of the people I was around.
Sound a bit absurd? Not really.
I began to realize that there were, in fact, some very not-so-nice people that I had to deal with on my daily walk down the street, but I was the one who was taking notice of them. I was the one remembering them. These people made it a point to make themselves known, to make their absurdity apparent, however there were other people around them, the quiet ones, that I had never paid attention to. These were the people who were living their lives in such a manner that they would never hurt a soul, nor would they invade anyone’s personal bubble without permission first. But my brain ignored them, because they were “normal.” So while I was losing faith in humanity, humanity was going about unnoticed right before my eyes.
I made a decision that day, to notice the quiet people. To notice the kind, polite, well-mannered individuals that I had once taken for granted. As I did this, something amazing began to happen; more and more “good people” were appearing before my eyes. From the man who got off the bus at a stop that wasn’t his so that I could take his seat—to the woman who offered to pay for a beggar’s lunch. The more I focused on the good in people, the more good people I saw. The more I focused on the amazingness of the quite ones, the more amazing people I met. I began to train my brain to see the positive, rather than to hold on to the negative like I had been training myself to do for so long, and it made all the difference. It brought to mind an ayah (verse) in the Qur’an that I had not understood in this light until now:
“’If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor],’” (Qur’an 14:7)
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) tells us that if we are thankful, if we are in a state of hamd (praise of God) internally, then He will bless us and increase us in the favors that he has bestowed upon us. Of course this is in the literal sense, that He will grant us more and more of the things we want, but it is also includes something a little bit different: The more we are thankful for the blessings that Allah (swt) gives us, the more He will make us aware of the blessings that He has placed in our lives. Every day we carry on surrounded by a multitude of blessings that we don’t even realize we have, or that we ignore because we have just gotten so used to them. But when we take a moment to recognize the blessings that we are given and actually thank God for them, He increases us in the awareness of those blessings, filling our lives with a joy that was possible all along, but we had been pushing away.
Yesterday, I was taking public transportation to a local mall and as I was sitting there, a man got on the bus. He had his phone to his ear and it was reading out something to him: “December 29th, 1:06 pm.” He was blind. He was not able to see the world as I could, he was not able to even check his phone himself. Silently, at that moment, I thanked God for the blessing He had bestowed upon me, that I take advantage of each day without thinking twice—sight. And after I thanked Him, I began to take notice of the many blessings that came along with sight. The blessing of seeing the birds fly across the sky. The blessing of seeing the streets as I crossed them. The blessing of seeing hazardous things and being able to turn away from them. The blessing of experiencing life through the blessing of vision. Silently, again, I said to myself, “’If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor].’”
When the world starts getting dark and filled with negative and ugly things, take a moment to notice the blessings. Take a moment to realize the good that God has placed in your life, and then thank Him, and then watch as He increases you.