When I think of Ramadan, the first thought that comes to my mind is family, and a hiatus from our day-to-day routines that have taken us away from our families during the past year. This same hiatus helps us revisit our roots and the connections that have made us, as individuals, who we are today. Ramadan is also a time when most of us reflect on ourselves. Throughout the past year, we have toiled, spending countless hours working (or studying), with a goal of advancing ourselves in our lives. Most of us become so engulfed in our daily lives that we get lost in time. Ramadan is a sort of alarm clock, waking us to remind us of another year passing. The holy month also slows life down to a pace with which we can reflect back on the past year and get back to focusing ourselves again.
Almost everyone’s childhood memories of Ramadan have a sense of simplicity; families and relatives gathering around a table to break bread. It presents us with a month of opportunities to reconnect with people we have not seen in a long time – a pseudo-doorway into our past.
We often lose track of what is most important to us, we become so immersed in thinking about, and working towards, our future destination that we forget to live the moment we are in. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Life is a journey, not a destination,” and regardless of our culture or religion, this month presents us with an opportunity to actually live by that quote. Ramadan is a month where we feel the seconds passing and we experience the moments we are in. Work becomes secondary to ourselves and our families; essentially, we begin to live the journey, and our destination becomes a gathering of loved ones joining together to create more memories that we will carry with us on our journey.
People’s thoughts usually focus on the meal and what will be on the table that evening. That is definitely not the essence of this month. I want to ask: how many of us have memories of the actual food they ate during Ramadan? Personally, I don’t recall the meals I had; rather, I remember the faces of the people on the table. I remember the feelings I had during those moments and I remember thinking that no matter how physically difficult the month was, I was always sad to see it leave.
We have an obligation to keep the essence of this month. It is one of the defining characteristics of our culture, regardless of our beliefs. Pivotal memories are engraved in our childhood during this month, establishing our unified belief in the sanctity of family. It is a statement that we will always set aside time to focus on ourselves and re-enforce our roots.
Perhaps this sentiment is a bit skewed on my part. Last week, I took my four-year-old daughter to her first summer camp. As we walked down the hall of the kindergarten, I handed my daughter over to my old summer camp director from my childhood. Coming full circle in life, I had to come to grips with the realization that it is now my turn to help build the memories my daughter will have, just as my parents did for me. Ramadan personally presents me with an opportunity to build those memories for my daughter, to give her the moments that will establish the firm faith in the bonding ties of family and to teach her the importance of taking time in our lives to slow down and reflect.
Physically draining as it may be, this month provides us with the opportunity to refuel our spiritual tanks. It is our time to reconnect with who we are and to help build the core of our children. I don’t plan on wasting this opportunity.