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The mysterious helping hands

Iram, and her brother, Ahmed, were excited about the upcoming days. It was Ramadan, a time to learn appreciation for the things they had, and to think of others who didn't have as much.

They had both been saving their money all year long. Iram, who was seven years old, sat on her bed and dumped out her money jar. Coins ran all over the blanket. "This is a lot of money. Momma says we are supposed to help someone. She wants us to think about how much we have and then think of someone who doesn't have very much, and do something nice for them," Iram said, gathering the money into a pile. "Dump out your jar, Ahmed," she told her brother.

The coins came spilling out of his jar onto the bed. "Wow! We can do a lot for someone with all this money," Ahmed said, smiling. "This is such a special time of year. I'm glad we can help others."

"But we have to do it secretly, Ahmed, remember. We have to pick someone and do something very nice without them knowing it is from us. Who should we pick?" Iram asked.

"Let's pick our neighbors, Rashid, and Fatima. I noticed that they had holes in their shoes," Ahmed said.

"That's a good idea. We could buy some new shoes for them. They aren't as blessed as we are. We have a lot of shoes, don't we?" Iram asked with appreciation.

"I have three pair. You have more. Let's buy some new shoes for them," Ahmed said, smiling.

Iram and Ahmed found their momma. She was busy washing some dates. She saw her children come into the kitchen. "I'm going to make some baklawa for tonight," she said, knowing her family loved to eat that. "Poppa is at the mosque, in prayer. When he comes home, after the sun sets, we'll have some. In the meantime, you two look like you've got something on your minds."

"We want to help the poor. Ahmed and I have been saving our money all year long and we want to help Rashid and Fatima, our neighbors," Iram began.

Ahmed, with excitement, interrupted, "We want to buy them some shoes."

Momma smiled at her beautiful children. She was so proud of them.

"Aren't you hungry, Momma?" Ahmed asked. He knew she had not had anything to eat or drink since dawn that morning.

"I'm a little bit, but that is good for me. Don't worry about me. When you're older, you'll understand more and be able to fast too," she explained. "Would you like me to take you to the store to buy the shoes?" she asked.

"Would you, Momma? Is that all right?" Iram begged.

"Why of course. Let's go," she said.

They walked to the shoe store and went inside. Iram picked out a pair of shoes for Fatima. Ahmed picked out a pair for Rashid. They were both so proud that they'd saved their money so they could do this to help. Later, they went home and wrapped the shoe boxes in plain brown paper. They waited anxiously for night to come. It would be dark and they could deliver their gifts.

The sun began to drop behind the horizon. A little while later, Poppa came home. He and Momma had some lentil soup, then tomato and cucumber sandwiches. Momma called to her children, "Iram. Ahmed. Come and have some baklawa, and some fresh dates." The children came running into the kitchen. Momma cut them a big piece.

They gobbled it down quickly as they were anxious to do their good deed. "Slow down, children," Poppa urged, laughing.

It was soon dark outside. Momma had the children go and get the boxes they'd wrapped so carefully. They put their coats on and walked quietly over to Rashid and Fatima's house. Momma whispered, "All right, children. We must be very quiet and very fast. Ahmed, you knock on the door and then run over here, to this bush, where Iram and I will be hiding. We'll watch as they come and find their gifts."

Iram and Ahmed giggled with delight. Iram and Momma hid, and Ahmed tiptoed up to the door. He put both of the boxes down on the porch, and knocked hard. Then he ran, and ran, and ran, as fast as he could, to where Iram and Momma were. "Shhh," Momma whispered. "Someone opened the door."

They watched as Rashid and Fatima came out onto the porch. "Look! There are presents for us. Someone left them here," Rashid cried out with excitement. He and Fatima looked around. It was very dark and they couldn't see anyone. They picked up the boxes and took them inside.

After a minute or two, waiting to make sure they wouldn't be seen, Momma, Ahmed, and Iram, snuck quietly back to their house. Ahmed started laughing. "Poppa! Poppa! We did it! We snuck up and left the presents!"

Iram added, "They didn't see us, Poppa. They don't know it was us." She was laughing too.

Momma and Poppa stood back and looked at their children. They were so proud of them. They knew their children knew the real meaning of giving and of sacrifice. The next morning, as Momma, Poppa, Iram, and Ahmed went to their car to drive into town, they saw Rashid and Fatima outside playing. They were both wearing their brand new shoes. Nobody said a thing. Iram and Ahmed just smiled.

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