Before we went to Dahab for our professional development weekend, I had summoned my students to collect donations for Om Khalid’s family. Super excited they began to bring clothing, books, and toys, some of them in unopened boxes, into the classroom in the mornings. I managed to fill more than half of my suitcase and a full extra one to take with us. “Ms. Melissa, do you think we could write them a letter?”, my students asked me. I responded that that would be a fantastic idea and that it showed great kindness. They worked with Ms. Hend and Ms. Noha to write the letters in Arabic. They decorated and attached candies to the notes. We were finally able to deliver the donations and the children’s notes.
Justine, Zainab, and I arrived to Om Khalid’s unannounced. I knew from past experience that they would go out of their way to find special food for us if they knew we were coming. However, if we just showed up they would offer what they had and maybe they would be satisfied to just offer tea. I knocked on the gate, unlatched it, and walked into their courtyard. I was also aware now that that is what they would expect any friend or family member to do. Azza, Om Khalid’s oldest and married, daughter stood up and greeted us. Abu Khalid who had been talking with his eldest daughter and was laying near the fire. He also stood to shake our hands in greeting and then placed himself back on the rug. Om Khalid was not there at the moment but they would send someone for her.
Within minutes she arrived and Justine and Zainab introduced themselves. Om Khalid and Azza, read the notes and shared them with their boys. The girls were out at the time, likely down at the Blue Hole, chatting with divers and playing near the sea. I could see by the smiles as they read that my student’s words had touched them. It made me happy to have been able to provide an opportunity for such an unlikely connection to be made.
Om Khalid and Azza, brought me into the room beside the bedroom. The room had a pea gravel floor and goat skins for a roof. There was one piece of furniture, a chest of drawers, and a couple of mats to sit on. Here we sorted the clothes and items according to who would most likely be able to use them. It wasn’t long before Mohamed, four, and Ahmed, about two years old, had joined us. Curious about the clothes but utterly joyful at the prospect of new toys. Even Abb Khalid came in to take part, enjoying surprise after surprise of useful items for his family. This time was simply pleasing with laughter and excitement. There was no sense of shame or embarrassment but simple gratitude and warmth invaded the atmosphere. Other family members had joined us by now and we did not leave before they insisted that we join them for lunch in the desert the next day. We had no choice but to accept the invitation.