Assalamu-alaikum (peace be upon you) fellow readers,

The weather has been surprisingly mild around these parts the past few days. In shaa Allah we keep enjoying the spring-like breezes and warm temperatures (at least by February’s standards).

Last Friday evening, our youth filed into the ISGL/Masjid for Isha prayer competing to see who could earn the coveted position in the first prayer row. Though there was some minor jostling, alhamdulillah most of our youth managed to peacefully negotiate space in the first row. For those who strolled in late, they were stuck praying in the second row. After prayer was completed, we broke apart into two groups for our weekly youth discusion. Friday’s topic: “Comforting the Sick.” The discussion focused on one of the rights each Muslim has upon another Muslim – to be visited when sick. It seems rather trivial but we forget that a kind smile, small gift, or a few minutes of quality time spent with a friend or community member who is sick at home or in the hospital can do wonders to lift one’s emotional well-being.

Too often we focus on the pleasure we received when our mother would patiently stay up with us at night when we had a severe fever or when our father would drive in the middle of the night to a local pharmacy to purchase medication to make us feel better. How often do we think about and make an effort to be the one who cares for those in a less fortunate position battling illness? A few of our youth took a moment to shed light and offer their personal reflections on the ongoing daily tragedy facing civilians living in Syria and Palestine. We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, to bestow His Mercy upon the innocent civilians who are suffering and to bring a peaceful end to the situation. Ameen.

The antsy anticipation of finding out which team you'll be selected to join. Please end the suspense ya Ihsan!

To help our youth develop a sense of compassion and put the concept of visiting those who are sick (to provide them a lift) into practice, we launched our community service project for this semester on Friday evening. For this service project, our project leader (Br. Ihsan) divided our young men into 5 different teams (each consisting of 3-4 members). Each team had an ameer (leader). Given $15 (some teams earned a few bucks more due to exemplary behavior) and 30 minutes at Walmart, our teams had to purchase the following items for children battling illness (or recovering from surgery) in the Pediatrics ward of a local hospital:

1.) Two teammates from each team selected a “Get well soon” card from the card aisle. Our youth would later take turns writing a nice heartfelt message in the card for the patient.

2.) The remaining two teammates from each team had to work to find a gift (or gifts depending on how well each team budgeted its expenses) for the patients. Gifts could consist of toys, books, or clothing items (ex. hats and scarves).

With a little dose of creativity, the shopping spree at Walmart began:

 

 

Hamza and Amine negotiate over a bear - final decision...the bear is too expensive. Time to move on.

 

Essa peruses the books in one aisle. "I wonder which book to get - they all look so good!"

 

Mujtaba looks overwhelmed; everywhere he turns all he sees is toys. Why won't they stop looking at me?!!!

Ahem...quality control testing folks. Amr wanted to make sure the ball had the correct "bouncy ratio" for the gift recipient.

Some teams struggled to decide on which toy(s) to purchase so they resorted to an unconventional method in reaching a final decision:

When you can't decide on a toy to buy, go back in time to the way disputes were settled in the past...rock, paper, scissors buddy! Amine won this round over Danyal.

Some teams, well, they just had a bit too much time on their hands:

Traffic jam in the toy aisle! Why is there a pink hula hoop next to Shujath and Mohamed?

Malik got done shopping early so he decided to test his hula hoop skills. I think we found out who the pink hula hoop belongs to.

After some arm-twisting, negotiating, and a few friendly games of rock, paper, scissors, our young men ended up with several well-thought out cards and gifts:

Bassim proudly displays the card his team selected for a local patient in the hospital. Great choice!

We have an Abe Lincoln sighting! Atta cooly displays his team's burgeoning collection of toys.

Assim and Murtaza appear good to go. "Wait, where is our cash?"

Once all the teams made their final card and gift selections, we marched towards the checkout aisle with items in hand (or in the shopping cart Salah was pushing around):

Muhammad, Assim, and Murtaza pay the cashier for their items. "$15, $16, $17... phew we just had enough money!"

Several of our young men showed great heart and generosity by donating their leftover change to Riley’s Children’s Hospital. They could have attempted to purchase a chocolate bar or a pack of gum, but they chose to support other young people in need:

Some of our youth ended up with spare change from their gift purchases. They continued the giving spirit by donating their change to Riley's Children's Hospital.

We’ll leave you with a close-up shot of one of the mentor’s favorite “get well soon” cards purchased by our youth. All cards purchased were outstanding ranging from classy to hilarious. This one tends to lean more towards the hilarious end of the card spectrum:

One of the cards our young men selected; I wonder what is inside the card...

Classic ending - ya gotta love the punchline!

Congratulations to our youth for their wonderful gift and card selections. In shaa Allah our young men will get the opportunity to drop-off these gift items and cards in two weeks.

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