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A hope note

In August of 1994, we deposited our middle son 1,300 miles from home in Albuquerque, N.M. Justin enrolled as a freshman at the University of New Mexico.
One key to adjustment the freshman year of college, for most people, is the roommate. Justin’s assigned roommate was named Shariff. Shariff was not Native American, like many students at the University of New Mexico. Nor was he Hispanic, as are many students there. Shariff was Egyptian. And Muslim.
Shariff’s Muslim parents lived across town. Occasionally Shariff took Justin home with him for a meal. On holidays, or between semesters, when our son was too far away or it was too expensive to come home, they moved him into their house. When I flew out once to visit Justin, they insisted I come to their house. They proceeded to feed me a sumptuous meal, served with generous helpings of warm, Muslim hospitality. The summer after Justin’s freshman year, while he worked as a counselor at Philmont Scout Ranch, Shariff’s family stored all of our son’s earthly goods in their house.
Justin had a wonderful freshman year, thanks largely to his roommate and his roommate’s family. Our son was the stranger, knowing no one when he landed there, and a Muslim family took him in. And that made all the difference.
Never since have I been able to lump all Muslims into a stereotype.
I want to begin from the assumption of ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ I want to believe that, beyond the label of Muslim or Mormon, ex-con or congressman, atheist or attorney, garbage man or gay, may be an individual who breaks the mold.
I believe Kierkegaard was right: ‘Every person is an exception.’

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