I came to Chicago to attend a conference for work.
I didn't fast because a lot of the networking with the industry people happens over drinks and meals.
During lunch, as people sat around the round table there were two seats open: one next to me and one next to a gentleman. An older gentleman comes in a little later and sits on the seat next to me. He introduces himself as the Vice President of The Cheesecake Factory.
I smiled and introduced myself. Soon after, the server put out our entrees in front of us. I requested a vegetarian dish.
Everybody else on the table received the chicken dish by default. The older gentleman next to me looks at my plate and asks why I have a special dish. I responded that it was a vegetarian dish.
He says he's sure the chicken is halal. I responded I'm sure it is not, as most restaurants do not serve halal in the US. He whispers to me, 'You could just say 'Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim and eat it.' This man was a green eyed, light-skinned, and had no accent. At this point I'm burrowing my eyebrows in
1) surprise that he knows the blessings to Allah and
2) curiosity in who this man is. I look down on his name tag to check his last name. Baroudi, a Middle Eastern name. Aaaah, I nod in understanding. This is a fellow Muslim brother. Smiling at my reaction, he whispers that he will come talk to me later as another person at the table was talking to the whole group.
Later on, he comes to our booth and tells me he sat next to me because of my scarf and that he was happy to see me. He is originally from Lebanon. He told me about himself, his family, where he lives, and his career journey.
We didn't talk much about work and this distinguishes our conversation from the rest. It was as if we were catching up like friends... friends with 30 year or more age gap.
You see, seeing hijabis in the corporate world is rare. And seeing this older gentleman smile, make time to come chat and open up to me was a total joy. 🌷Umeda ⠀