February 6th, 2012 was an unforgettable date for me. It was the orientation day at my first full time engineering job. I had been working as a contract engineer for the prior 10 months. I also had ulterior motive for attending the orientation. My apartment manager told me about a Nigerian lady that visited the apartment complex. The manager promised me $100, if I could get her to sign a lease with him. I was so confident in my negotiation skills.
When I got to the orientation and scanned the 60 plus people, I immediately identified my prey, lets call her Maechelli. I smiled to myself while already planning how I was going to buy a fashion forward carpet for my living room. I walked up to her and introduced myself. I explained how I knew her name from my apartment manager. She replied ‘I hope it isn’t that old and raggedy apartment complex. God forbid living there.’ My heart dropped!!! The dream of owning an antique rug dwindled. That was the beginning of an amazing friendship with Maechelli.
Maechelli was ME!!! It was mind blowing to see a catholic Igbo version of me. Allahu Akbar… The similarities were uncanny. We were both loud, blunt, outspoken, honest and driven Nigerian ladies. The key difference was that Maechelli was a catholic/igbo/saver who was a last minute person while I am a Muslim/Yoruba/shopaholic who tries to be always punctual. She GOT me. Whenever we are having a discussion, it always seem like we are arguing because we are usually loud. Maechelli was always ready to drop anything and everything to help me. She became my blood and not just my friend. Maechelli and I worked day and night on my wedding preparation which was scheduled for Nov 2012. She and my other friend planned a surprise bridal shower.
She helped with the invitation, menu design, hall arrangement and even flew to the location 5 days prior to the wedding to setup and waited to cleanup after the guest left. I was told that people commented that she must have been paid a lot for the sacrifice. I didn’t give her a dime or pay for her expenses. She was ever present physically, emotionally and mentally. She was the best of friends. Maechelli was killed on 17th November, 2013. I still miss her every single day.
Most times, we limit ourselves by being prejudice about people that are different from us either in race, ethnicity or even religion. We miss out on cultivating genuine friendship and sometimes even prevent people from being Muslims by our standoff behavior. We are so unapproachable with our frown that we forget a smile is sadaqa. Maechelli was a Christian but she taught me a lot about tolerance, respecting boundaries and acceptance. She always encourage me to pray my salat even if we are late for an outing. She made me a better version of myself. Alhamdulilahi, I met Maechelli.
I am sure a lot of people would quote the Quran verse that warns about making non Muslims bosom friends. In a scenario where one lives in a region where Muslims are the minority, what is one expected to do? Even in a Muslim dominated country, do we sacrifice a friend that treats one with respect and understands boundaries (religion inclusive) for another that has neither respect nor understand boundaries because of religion? I believe as long as boundaries are respected, we can all coexist in peace.
Asallam Alaeikum Warahmatallah Wabarakatu.