They have been here in Lisburn for about 2 years now and I have to admit I was concerned when the house next door went up for sale and it was bought by Social Housing as we hadn’t had great experience in our area from some disruptive people. When I saw the new neighbours, I could see they were Muslim and in the past I had had some nasty experiences in Egypt with some men and how they treated women so didn’t know what to expect.
However, after getting to know my neighbours, I learned a valuable lesson ... never judge someone by the extremes of their Faith. I have come across many Fundamentalists in my time and thankfully they are the minority in Religious Faiths. As, most of you know I am a Pagan and have been so for many years and believe me we also have our fair share of head cases!!!
Most people are decent and if you show kindness, you will receive it back. I was very proud of our small cul-de-sac as everyone was very welcoming. I waved over and smiled to them on that first day and others did the same. You could see they were very touched.
We gradually got to know each other, although language is still a barrier but it is amazing how you overcome that. I learned they were from Aleppo, a beautiful city which was destroyed by war. They showed me photos and said that they lost everything and ended up in Egypt. They were not happy in Egypt and in particular they did not want their son to grow up there. So they came here and had no idea what to expect.
Over the last 2 years, they have shown me great kindness and I regularly get meals and wonderful pastries brought to the door. Just before Christmas they bought me a bouquet of flowers ... last year, they got me a beautiful framed print of my name in Arabic.
At the moment my arthritis has taken a turn for the worse and I have limited mobility and a lot of pain. I just found out that a hip replacement is on the cards but goodness knows how long that will take!
Anyway this morning, my bin blew over and papers were flying everywhere. My son lives nearby but was at work so I managed to get out to see if I could upright it but was not having any luck. Then my Syrian friend saw from his window that I was struggling and he was immediately out to help. He cleared up all the mess and brought the bin around the back garden. He told me if I ever need help they were there for me and I only had to rap on their door. He was so concerned that I am not in full health that he had tears in his eyes. I was so touched that I started to cry as feeling a bit sorry for myself lately and doesn’t do to get sympathy.
Anyway, always give people a chance despite any first impressions, you may be surprised and make good friends.