I had just gotten my boarding pass and was trying to make my way to the gate.
When I walked right in front of him as he prayed. He was on his knees…his forehead on a scarf that was gently resting there on the floor.
I sat down a few feet away and waited for several minutes…maybe five…as he prayed there to his God in the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport.
Three times he stood and three times he prayed.
When he was done he sat down.
“May I ask you a few questions,” I asked. “I will totally understand if you do not want to talk.”
“Yes,” he said. He stood from where he was sitting and sat down in the chair next to me.
“I live in Charlotte, NC and just haven’t sought out this kind of conversation. Can I ask you about your prayer? Will you tell me about that?”
With a beautiful British accent, he began. And I listened.
He told me about the five times a day he prays…each time facing Mecca.
I asked him, “How do you know which way Mecca is?”
“I carry a small compass with me.”
His name is Osman and he is from England. He is an accountant who works on Projects run by the World Bank and the UN.
We talked for a while, me and Osman.
He was in Minneapolis visiting his mom and sister. They were there also…praying with him.
“What do you think about everything that’s happening in the world?” I asked.
He shared with me that he was here this week when Donald Trump spoke of his plans to block all Muslims from entering the U.S.
“I have my opinions,” he said. “But if you got to know me, you would know that I am just me. I am a good person. Human like everybody.”
I started crying…I don’t know why. I just did. I apologized for crying. I wanted to embrace him but I didn’t. I just cried and it was okay, I think.
“There are the extremes,” he said. “There is Trump and there is ISIS…but neither of these speak for the millions of people who live in between.”
He told me about a “sermon” he heard today at a Muslim gathering in Minneapolis. The speaker was talking to the crowd about the importance of showing people like me…the side of their faith not often seen in the media…to be open to encounters like the one we are having.
“You seem like an open person too,” he said
We smiled at each other.
We talked about our kids. He has two boys and two girls. I told him about my boy living in New York and my daughter getting ready to graduate.
I asked him if I had shown disrespect by walking in front of him as he prayed and that if I had I certainly didn’t mean to.
We smiled again.
I told him I would like to write about our exchange and share it with my friends, but that I would share it with him first.
And so I did. And he felt good about it too
And so now we share it with you.
Me and Osman.
And to think…I was so mad for getting lost on my way to the airport. We never know what comes from being lost and then found.