“Strangers on a Train” by Shante Fencl

For this week’s blog post, I wanted to talk about personal connections I’ve made in Morocco in these first three weeks. I wanted to tell you all about the students studying with AMIDEAST this semester that have quickly become my friends. I wanted to talk about the Moroccan friends I now have that refer to me as their sister and truly mean it. I wanted to show off my adorable host siblings that spray silly string in my face almost every night and sing to me in French and Arabic. I wanted to talk about all of these things, but I witnessed something the other day that deserves an entire blog post to itself. At first I didn’t think much of it, but now I think about this one small moment almost every day. Please stay tuned for future posts because all of the people I mentioned will be discussed at some point throughout my semester here in Morocco, but I need to share this story that had a lasting impact on me.

Earlier this week, I was taking the tram home from my last class at the AMIDEAST building. The tram in Rabat is the most efficient mode of transportation I have seen in my life. The sun had already set, and I found myself waiting on the platform with very few people around. As the tram car approached, I saw a man pushing an elderly woman in a wheel chair. The man was obviously some kin to the woman, as he helped cover her with her blanket to protect against the January air. The doors of the tram car opened and he accompanied her inside. I continued to watch the pair as the tram left the platform. I take this thirty minute tram ride twice every day and gazing out of the window has gotten old, so now I people watch to pass the time. I couldn’t figure out the relationship between the man and the woman. Was this her son? Her grandson? I could not be sure, but I remember thinking how sweet it was for him to care for his loved one like that.

Before long, I heard the familiar sound over the loud speaker, “Al Mahattat Caadima.” As the pre-recorded voice informed passengers we were approaching the next stop, the woman motioned to the door. As soon as the train stopped the man opened the door, helped the woman out, and went back to his seat. I was completely caught off guard. It took me a moment to realize that the man was of no relation to the elderly woman at all, he was just helping an old woman get to her destination. As the tram car pulled away, my eyes stayed glued to the woman on the platform. To my amazement, I saw another man begin to push the woman without being asked. My heart was instantly warmed.

In my first week of orientation in Morocco, we discussed the importance of community in Moroccan culture. That night on the tram, I saw what it truly meant to be a part of that community. This was not just an act of kindness between one Moroccan and another; it was an interaction between two people. I know that if I were that woman, those men would have done the same for me. Community encompasses everyone around you, not just those of the same race, religion, nationality, or any other ways of identifying who you are. In a culture with a strong since of community, it is the responsibility of everyone to lend their hand.

After seeing this simple action, I am trying to make myself an active member in this community. It is sad to think my immediate assumption when seeing that man help another person was that they must be related. I hope I never make this assumption again. So for all of you reading this post, I challenge you to do something nice for a complete stranger today. Treat them as if they were someone you loved. Maybe you will inspire someone to do the same.

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Filed under Area & Arabic Language Studies, Morocco, Rabat, Shante Fencl

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