“Nobody gets me!”

April 7, 2016 @ 4:42 pm

A few weeks ago a young Muslim girl melted down in my Powerful Princess after school class.
The girls had been playing armies with cardboard swords they decorated after we learned about Catherine the Great.
This young girl, N., was trying to rally her army but some girls refused to cooperate. One girl got teary because she wanted to play a different way. When she went out into the hall for a drink of water, N. began to shout. “Nobody gets me at this school! I just wanted to play. I am so lonely!”
Everyone grew quiet.
The next week N. was not in class. She was celebrating her birthday at Red Lobster, she told me later.
Yesterday N. came back to class.
“We have a Muslim princess today,” I told her.
Her whole face lit up. “Really? Really Muslim?”
I nodded. “Sayyida al-Hurra, the pirate princess.”
N. frowned “being a pirate is haram, forbidden. It’s stealing.”
“I know,” I said, “but she had good reasons. She was trying to take gold from the Spanish who had stolen it from Mexico. And they had kicked her out of Spain.”
N.’s face relaxed. “Can I teach the class some things about Islam?”
“I think you should be our assistant teacher today,” I said.
She beamed.
N borrowed my scarf, and tied it around another girl’s head. This girl is from Mexico. She smiled as she stood patently as N’s model.
At the end of our lesson, when we sat in a circle and shared out thoughts about the princess and our group, N asked if she could recite the opening of the Koran. “It sounds like singing, but it’s disrespectful to say that, you say that you recite it,” she said.
And then she began. The room was silent, except for her reciting in heartfelt Arabic. Everyone watched her quietly, looking respectful and interested.
I don’t know the Arabic word for what that moment was, but as I walked out of that school, past the auto body shops and the funeral home and the bodegas, I thought we had all experienced grace.