“Ummi, I’m soooo bored!” moaned Aminah as she slumped onto a nearby sofa.
“It’s not even close to lunch time, Aminah, and you’re already bored?”
“Hmph.” Aminah rolled her eyes and turned her face in the opposite direction.
Ummi shook her head in disbelief. Since Ramadhan had ended, over two weeks ago, both Aminah and Abdullah had been finding it hard to get into a routine. With no school or studies and with most of their friends away on vacation, they spent most of their time moaning and groaning about having nothing to do, nowhere to go and no one to play with.
“I think you’re all suffering from post-Ramadhan slump!” Yusuf said as they sat together one evening.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Abdullah asked, his eyebrows bunched together in confusion.
“It means that because Ramadhan is over and the big shaytaans are back out, we’re finding it harder to do more worship and feel lazy when it comes to doing good deeds! But you know, a sign of an accepted Ramadhan is that we still strive to do good deeds.”
“Oh!” Abdullah exclaimed. “I’ve been keeping on top of my Qur’an, Yusuf, and even the night prayer sometimes.”
“Alhamdulilah, that’s amazing! But I’ve also noticed you spending a tad too much time on that Xbox of yours.”
Abdullah pulled a face.
“And it looks as though you’ve lost some of your manners too. Any idea where they’ve disappeared to?”
Aminah burst into a fit of laughter. “Abdullah has lost his manners. Nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-NUUUUHHH.”
“Aminah, erm it seems like you’ve been watching a bit too much Horrid Henry, no?” Yusuf had a serious look on his face as he posed the question to Aminah.
Aminah giggled. “I think so, Yusuf.”
Yusuf shook his head.
“Right, we need to fill your idle heads and empty hands with some useful activities.” Yusuf stood up and gestured for Abdullah and Aminah to grab their coats and shoes.
“Noooo. I want to finish this game first!” Abdullah’s eyes were fixated on the television set.
“SubhanAllah!” Yusuf exclaimed, then calmly walked over to the TV and switched it off.
“Yusuf! Why did you do that?” Abdullah was furious.
Just then, Abi walked into the living room.
“What’s going on here?” Abi asked.
“Yusuf won’t let me play!” Abdullah folded his arms angrily, his face beginning to go red.
Aminah covered her mouth with her hand, trying hard not to laugh.
“I think you’ve been playing for too long on that, Abdullah. Your mother and I discussed this and decided to ban these gadgets and games for one week to help you get back into a routine.”
Abdullah was just about to open his mouth but remembered the ayah from the Qur’an about not saying ‘Uff’ to your parents.
“Okay, Abi.” He said quietly, looking down and trying hard not to say anything that would make Allah angry with him.
“And you, Aminah, less TV and more reading. Yusuf will take you both to the library soon, inshaAllah.”
Abi looked at Yusuf, who nodded quietly in agreement.
Aminah nodded in reply. “Yes, Abi.” She remembered that seeking knowledge was important in Islam and both Aminah and Abdullah began to feel guilty about their post-Ramadan slump.
“So where are you taking us, Yusuf bhai?” Aminah asked.
“Well, just recently a new neighbour moved in next door. She’s a non-muslim and a very cute old lady, with lots of fun stories to share. Her name is Auntie Julie. She hasn’t been feeling too well so I thought we could get some reward by visiting her and taking her some gifts.”
“Oooh, gifts. I’m excited already!” Aminah squealed, imagining little boxes covered in shiny wrapping paper and giant silky bows.
Yusuf smiled, amused at Aminah’s excitement, then turned to Abdullah.
“Me too!” Abdullah exclaimed.
“But, before we do,” Yusuf continued. “Who is going to quickly tell me the reward for visiting the sick?”
“Me, me!” Abdullah raised his hand.
“Go on,” motioned Yusuf.
“The angels send blessings upon the person who visits a sick person!”
“Excellent! What else, Aminah?”
“Umm… the person is showered with the Mercy of Allah?”
“Yes! Also, the person harvests the fruits of Paradise until they return.” Yusuf added.
“SubhanAllah.” Aminah glorified Allah.
“Alright, let’s go!” Yusuf said, grabbing his own coat and boots from the closet by the door.
As the children got ready, Yusuf reminded Abdullah and Aminah to say ‘Bismillah’, to start first with the right sleeve when they put on their coats, and the right shoe when they put on their shoes as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) taught us.
The siblings then left the house, saying the Du’aa of leaving the home as they did every day. “Bismillahi, tawakkaltu ‘alaa Allah, wa laa hawla, wa laa quwwata illa billah,” they each whispered in turn. Aminah tugged at Yusuf’s sleeve, “What does this du’aa mean?”
“It means we take the name of Allah whom we trust to keep us safe when we leave the house, and we know that there is no power or might except with Allah,” Yusuf said, locking the door and dropping the house keys into his pocket.
“Oh.” Aminah’s eyes widened as she watched Abdullah skip down the steps leading to the garden. “Why do we need to trust Allah to keep us safe? Could something happen to us when we go out?”
Yusuf held Aminah’s hand and walked down the steps with her. “Well, anything could happen to us at any time. You might get sick, you might fall down and hurt yourself or get lost somewhere, but if you trust Allah and know that He is watching over you then He will use it to test you to see if you are patient and really rely on him, and InshaAllah protect you and keep you safe.”
Aminah looked worried and glanced nervously at Abdullah, who ran ahead of them, shouting merrily as he climbed onto the edge of the pavement, sticking both arms in the air, pretending he was an acrobat as he balanced himself and took small, steady steps.
Yusuf saw the worried look on Aminah’s face and squeezed her hand, “Aminah, don’t worry! Allah has sent Abi and Ummi to take care of us and make sure we are all safe and healthy. You will always have one of us with you to make sure you are okay, InshaAllah, and if you are ever alone, you now know so many du’aas that you can make so that Allah protects you and nothing harms you.”
He looked at Abdullah as he said this; “Speaking of which, Abdullah! Get down from there and walk closer to us, we’re not going straight to Auntie Julie’s house. Remember, we need to stop at the corner shop and pick up a little gift for her.”
The children then stopped at the little shop on their street and chose a basket of fruit and some big, cheery sunflowers to take to Auntie Julie. Aminah felt very excited as Yusuf paid for the gifts and handed her the bouquet, which was nearly as big as her.
The children continued walking until they reached Auntie Julie’s house, number 34B. They stood outside, waiting for Yusuf to finish adjusting Abdullah’s collar and using his fingers to sweep his hair out of his face.
“Okay kids, remember what I said to you about the manners and etiquettes of visiting a sick person. Our visit is going to be a short one, because Auntie Julie may be uncomfortable or in pain if we stay for too long. We don’t want to do anything to trouble her, okay?
“Alright then!” exclaimed Aminah.
Yusuf continued, “Unless she asks us to stay longer, we must leave when I tell you both that it is time to leave. Also, remember to use your inside voices. Abdullah, I’m talking to you.” Yusuf said, looking serious.
Aminah giggled and nudged Abdullah.
Abdullah sighed loudly and rolled his eyes. “Okaaaayy.”
Yusuf shot a look at Aminah.
“Aminah, you too. Remember to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, and don’t ask for something unless it is offered to you or you really need it, like if you need a drink of water or to use the bathroom.”
Both children nodded and began to wonder what Auntie Julie would be like.
Would she be in a bed, propped up with pillows and a thermometer in her mouth? Or would she be covered in bandages, like Mr. Bump from the Mr Men books Ummi had read to them?
Abdullah and Aminah had only visited someone sick on one occasion, their cousin Hafsah who had chicken pox last year. She had spots all over, and was sleeping for most of the visit.
Their thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Yusuf ringing the doorbell. A woman dressed in all blue opened the door for them.
“Hi, we’re here to see Julie Saunders,” Yusuf said, smiling as he handed her the basket of fruit.
“This woman-” Yusuf whispered to Abdullah and Aminah, “-is Auntie Julie’s nurse.”
Aminah and Abdullah raised their eyebrows in curiosity.
As she took their coats from them, Yusuf explained that Auntie Julie had no children to take care of her, and her relatives were usually too far away or too busy to visit, so she had to hire a nurse to live with her. This is why she didn’t get many visitors and so was often lonely.
The children were now eager to meet Auntie Julie, and the nurse soon ushered them all into a small room with sky blue walls. In the corner of the room, sat in an old wooden rocking chair, was Auntie Julie. She had curly hair that looked to Aminah like someone had powdered it white, and a soft, woolly blanket lay across her lap. In her lap was also a ball of yarn, attached to something she was knitting as she looked out the window into her garden.
As the children entered, she looked up and beamed, putting down her needles.
“Why, hello there.” Her voice was small, but she sounded kind. Yusuf put his hands on Aminah’s shoulders and guided her forward as Auntie Julie beckoned the children to come closer. She was wearing glasses and squinted slightly, only to see a giant bouquet of sunflowers presented to her with a shy little girl hiding behind.
“What are your names?” she asked, leaning forward to accept the flowers that Aminah was holding out to her.
Yusuf stepped forward. “Mrs Saunders, my name is Yusuf and these are my younger siblings, Aminah and Abdullah.” Abdullah and Aminah each shook the old woman’s hand as she smiled kindly at them. She held their hands and patted their heads as they each said hello.
“We live a few houses down from you, and when I heard from the man who works at our local bakery that you were ill, I thought we would come down and visit you.”
Auntie Julie beamed at the children, and looked back down at the flowers in her lap. “These are beautiful flowers,” she said, thanking the children and handing the bouquet to her nurse, who put them in a vase by her bed.
Aminah was so pleased to hear this that her little heart filled with joy. “I chose them!” she squealed softly, remembering Yusuf’s instructions to use their inside voices, even when they were excited.
“Oooh, how thoughtful of you!” Auntie Julie smiled back at her.
“So, how are you feeling now?” Abdullah asked.
“A lot better.” Auntie Julie sniffled. “You know, my husband passed away around five years ago. It was a huge loss for me. He was a very old, weak man, and cared for me so much. Since then, I’ve found every day quite tough. My three sons come to visit me often but they live so far away, so its lovely to have guests visit me. Thank you for keeping me company.”
Yusuf lowered his head.
“I’m sorry to hear that. I’m glad you’re feeling better though. If you ever need anything, please call us. We would be more than happy to help you out.”
“Yes.” Abdullah piped in. “Our religion tells us to always respect our elders and care for the sick and needy.”
“Oh, really! Well that sounds like a beautiful religion.” Auntie Julie smiled warmly.
Aminah moved closer until she was touching the arm of Auntie Julie’s chair.
“Auntie Julie,” she began softly, “Don’t you ever get bored? You sit here all day, you must get bored. What do you do when you’re bored?”
Mrs Saunders reached out and placed her hand over Aminah’s, then held her hand and pulled her closer until Aminah could smell her soft, flowery perfume. Her hand was warm, and Aminah noticed it had lines and wrinkles all over it.
“My child,” she began gently, “I have lived a long, long time and seen both good and bad times.”
She motioned to Yusuf and Abdullah to come closer as she continued, “One thing that has always kept me going is that I’m never idle. As a little girl and a young woman I have always used my time wisely, and tried my best to be productive and hardworking while I had time and energy.”
She paused and coughed into a floral handkerchief. Yusuf looked at her face sadly, her eyes were squeezed shut as her body shook with the force of each cough.
Aminah quickly reached a hand out and patted Auntie Julie on the back until she stopped coughing, as she saw Ummi do when Abdullah was sick. Auntie Julie patted her on the head and smiled as she gathered herself to continue.
“You see, I was never ‘bored’, because being that meant that I had time to sit around and do nothing at all.” She looked at the children, who were listening very keenly.
Abdullah and Aminah looked especially thoughtful as she continued. “There was always so much to do, learn and see, so how could I sit around when there was so much I could be doing to make myself a better person, or to help someone else?”
She paused and looked into her lap at the ball of wool and half finished scarf she had been knitting. “Even now, I try my best to wake up every morning and do six things to make myself or the world I live in better. I’m knitting this scarf for my nurse Angela; she takes care of me more than my own children do, and I thought it would make a nice thank you present.”
She pulled the unfinished scarf from her lap and showed it to the children, who passed it around and felt how wonderfully soft and woolly it was. “Wow, you made this?!” Aminah exclaimed, rubbing the soft fabric between her fingers.
Auntie Julie smiled sadly, “Yes, but now that I’m old and unwell it’s harder for me to do things I used to find much easier before. I can’t knit as fast as I used to, because of my arthritis.” She held out her right hand and the children saw her fingers were stiff and she struggled to bend them.
The children spent the whole afternoon with Auntie Julie, who taught Aminah how to knit, showed Abdullah her window sill garden and pulled out old cuttings from newspapers for Yusuf to look at.
Later that evening, Aminah and Abdullah sat to write in their gratitude journals that Yusuf had introduced them to. They had decided on their walk home to write 3 things they were grateful for everyday. Auntie Julie had really inspired them today.
Aminah pulled out a sparkly pink pen and wrote the 3 things she was grateful for:
Today I am grateful for:
- My time. After meeting Auntie Julie today, I feel like I waste a lot of time. Ummi and Abi always tell me not to, but I realised that I need to busy myself in doing more good and beneficial things. Like knitting or writing!
- My health. Auntie Julie is so weak and frail and her health isn’t so good, yet she is still so smiley and cheerful. She still makes the most of the little bit of strength she has to advise or knit.
- My family and friends. Auntie Julie lives alone most of the time and she lost her husband too. That made me feel quite sad but also very grateful to have family and friends to keep me company.
Thank you Allah. Alhamdulilah for everything!