Mike, The Tow Truck Muslim
I think that most people know by now that much of my time up here has been one large calamite after another. Being broke, switching jobs, switching homes, crashing my car in an empty parking lot–in less than three months. Last night was another doozie. I was down in the city, leaving Dan Sadlier‘s when I heard a pop in my drivers side wheel. I thought it was odd, but kept going, eventually I took a turn and my tires locked up, both facing inward at a solid 45-degree angle. I broke a tie-rod.
This left me stranded on the side of the Lodge for about 2 and a half hours. Luckily I have great friends. James and Craig came down and sat with me, Mike let me use his triple-A and a couple hours later we got the car back to my house.
I climbed in the cab of the tow truck. My mechanic was a small guy, dark complexion, balding with a scruffy beard. I introduced myself as Cole, he told me his name was Michael.
Michael, noting that my plates were from Arkansas, asked why I came to Detroit. I told him I came to work for a church, help people, etc. He nodded politely.
I asked where he was from. “Dearborn,” he said.
For those of you who do not know, Dearborn is a Detroit suburb that has the highest concentration of Muslim-Americans in the United States. This is becoming somewhat of a specticle in a new television show called All-American Muslim.
So, when he told me he was from Dearborn so I just decided to ask, “Are you a Muslim?”
“Yes,” he said.
This opened up a huge conversation between there and my house. We talked about everything from racism, his experience as an American Muslim, Muslim extremism and the KKK, the homeless and how we are to react to that, and important aspects of our Holy books: the things we have in common and the things we differ on. We talked Catholic vs. Protestant, Sunni vs. Shia. We laughed, agreed on a lot, learned a lot from each other about our lives and experiences and had a wonderful conversation about the way that God is working in our lives.
The ride lasted the better part of an hour, arriving around eleven that night. We climbed out, got my car unloaded from his truck and settled up. I introduced him to my girlfriend Jenny and friend James. We settled up and I thanked him for everything.
“Cole,” he said. “You are my brother. Thank you, my friend.” He invited me to come visit him in Dearborn sometime. An offer that I will probably accept.
There are a lot of little things in this that I want to point out and appreciate:
1) I love that I am now in a place where people of differing faiths are the norm, not exception.
2) I am grateful daily for the education that I received at Harding, especially in Monte Cox’s Living World Religions class that educated me well enough to have informed conversations with guys like Mike that I meet daily.
3) I am thankful for my time overseas that gave me the small impression of what it is like to be a member of a minority culture that is perceived as hostile.
4) I am thankful that I didn’t have many interactions like this one with Michael or previous with Joseph while I was an annoying fundamentalist. I think they would have looked much different.
It was good to get to know Michael. I think he and I left with a greater appreciation for one another as people, but also as believers and practitioners of differing faiths. I think we really connected on a level that says we have more in common that we have dividing us. That is not a bad way to pass the time that your car is being towed.