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Friday, January 20, 2012

Life is like a science fair

I was one of the judges for a science fair today. I was paired with another lady and we had the chance to listen to presentations by ten third-graders about projects of their choosing. A couple of the projects were really fabulous. The kids appeared confident while presenting, though they must have been nervous inside. They had worked so hard and only the winners would go on to the regional science fair. Some of the kids seemed to be only mildly interested in their projects. They had done the bare minimum and were not even sure about many things on their own trifold poster. They sheepishly admitted that parents or older siblings had helped them with their projects, maybe even done the harder parts for them.There were who had done an excellent job presenting, but the experiment they chose did not really seem to have much worth, e.g., do candles burn faster if they are frozen, or at room temperature? Try as we could, we could not think of any real-life application or lasting benefit to such research.

The winner had prepared an excellent presentation about how to obtain fresh drinking water from salty sea water, by a simple process of evaporation and condensation. We were impressed to see how this child was moved by the plight of people in Africa who lacked fresh drinking water. She was knowledgeable about all aspects of her experiment, since she had done most of the work herself, under the supervision of her parents. We had no problem giving her the first prize.

Seeing all those adorable kids wait for their turn, forget what they were going to say and make silly mistakes reminded me of my own examinations in life and how they were dreaded by me, and how that dread prompted me to prepare for them. They also reminded me of another examination we all have to inevitably face. The standing before our Creator, to account for this life that He gave us. We have been given so many ways to prepare: information and reminders, wisdom and encouragement, the constant supervision and support of the examiner Himself. Are we well prepared?

We are sure to tremble when it is our time, but will it be out of awe, or because we are ashamed of how we wasted time while we had it?
Will we have areas in our life that we cannot account for, that we remained ignorant about, choosing not to learn?
Will we regret just doing enough to get by, not putting in a full effort?
Will we be of those who worked hard, but at all the wrong things, and so it didn't count for much in the end?

Or will we be among those whose hard work and faith is rewarded because we put the best of our abilities to use in a sincere effort?

Life is like a science fair. What will go on our presentation? Can we confidently answer questions about it? Will we work hard on it, or expect our parents and relatives to do the work for us? Most of all, will our exertions be worthwhile, for it is human nature to strive for something, to give meaning to our existence?

May our choices we wise for we never know when we may be next.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Changes that are so hard to make

Some changes can seem as hard to make as keeping a kitchen floor clean. We try to get a hold of them, focus on them, but they seem determined to get away from us. We make resolutions, promises, plans, all to come crashing down with us wondering what happened.

I was recently in a class by a wonderful lady named Atiya, and she gave some good advice in this regard. She said, often when we are stuck on something, e.g.,  trying to get rid of a bad habit, or striving for something good that keeps escaping us, we need to step back and examine our life. We might be doing something that displeases Allah, that we are not even aware of, but we need to stop doing it. It could be holding us back.

Another method that works, is to focus even more attention on the good deeds we are able to do. We can increase them, as a way of seeking the pleasure and nearness of Allah. Often we will find that the matter that eluded us, comes within our reach.

And last but not least, we need to pray for the matter that remains unresolved. Once we sincerely and regularly ask Allah for His help to guide us toward a good affair, or keep us away from a bad one, our prayers do not go unanswered. Sooner or later, we are able to advance spiritually and find what we were looking for.

It is also wise to remember that Allah, who made our natures, tells us in the Quran that often we like something and it is not good for us, and often we hate something but it is better for us. It helps to be very flexible when it comes to the acceptance of our prayers. Are we willing to accept what Allah gives us?