PHOTO: Muslim mother of 2, stranger share heartfelt moment in bo -, GA News Weather & Sports

PHOTO: Muslim mother of 2, stranger share heartfelt moment in bookstore

(Source: Leena Al-Arain) (Source: Leena Al-Arain)

(WTVM) – A Muslim mother of two shared a heartwarming moment on Facebook of a complete stranger sharing his experience as an American with her family.

Leena Al-Arian said she was in a Barnes and Noble store in the Boston area on Wednesday when a stranger named Lenny approached her.

With her two daughters, Hiba, 4, and Huda, 20 months, in her arms, they were waiting to greet the popular Paw Patrol characters when the encounter began.

The rest, as she detailed in the Facebook post, is a “modern day chicken soup for the anti-racist soul" moment. The post says:

So this happened today at Barnes & Noble: I went to take the kids to meet the Paw Patrol characters and this nice man approached me, told me how beautiful the girls are, and conveyed a heartfelt apology for the general anti-Muslim sentiment in our society today.

He had tears in his eyes and told me that it must be so hard to turn on the news, that he feels awful about the bigotry my kids might one day experience, and that as a Jewish man whose parents didn't speak any English growing up, he personally understands what it feels like to be rejected and discriminated against.

I asked if I could give him a hug (he looked like he needed one more than me, but I guess I needed one too) and he wanted to reassure me that most Americans are decent people who don't hate people like me or believe what they hear on the news. He then told me he's turning 90 on Friday and insisted on buying each of the kids a present as a gift for himself and so they can have something to remember him by. I told him we should just take a picture instead so I can tell them the story one day (he accepted) but insisted on buying them gifts anyway afterwards. 

After the experience I told my friend Jes and we both laughed about how it sounded like one of those heartwarming Facebook stories about random acts of kindness and that it even sounded a little too on-the-nose.

She suggested I share it to add to what I guess is our modern day chicken soup for the anti-racist soul. I said people will probably think my account got hacked because it's not nearly cynical enough but here's a picture and it happened. And if you don't believe me, ??.

Oh, and happy birthday, Lenny! ??
??, Leena

When asked how she felt about it a day after posting, Al-Arian said she had no intention of the photo going viral, but wanted to show in a touching interfaith moment for her children's sake.

She said she isn't a fan of the warm and fuzzy Facebook post, it's usually commentary and articles about human rights, the economy, racial and social injustices she feels are ignored by the mainstream media. 

"I wanted to share the anecdote partly to preserve the memory for myself and my kids, and to offer an emotional respite for many of my friends who, like me, often feel weighed down by the rise of anti-Muslim bigotry and the mainstreaming of racism against black and brown people," Al-Arian said. 

She did say that the moments that hit her the most about her post were other Muslim friends sharing it. 

"It was heartbreaking to see how many Muslims shared the story in the hope that our most basic humanity would be recognized, and that we will eventually be accepted as equal citizens in American society, doing our best to raise our kids like everyone else, and not simply through the context of the war on terror," she said. 

Al-Arian said meeting Lenny was "kismet" and that she was happy that "his heartfelt act has been shared with the world."

"However, since posting the photo, and the more my experience with Lenny was shared and well-received, the more I realized how starved we are in this political and social climate for stories about such simple acts of kindness and compassion," she said. "Overall, I am happy to see that love and an embrace of humanity 'trumps' hate and the politics of fear."

You can view the entire post here.

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