A conversation with new friend in Dublin keeps coming to mind. I’ve just finished six weeks in Dublin. The first couple of weeks I stayed at a peaceful Catholic retreat centre called the Avila Carmelite Centre – it was a luxury – very quiet, my own wee house, and very reasonable. However, they couldn’t accommodate me the whole time in Dublin. Therefore, through the wonders of Facebook, a friend of a friend offered me a room in her two up two down wee house in Drimnagh, a suburb of Dublin. It was a very different experience from the retreat centre. Small, busy, loud, and lots of time spent with my lovely Dublin host and her man.
Down the road from the Drimnagh house was a row of shops – amazingly there still existed a butcher, a fruit shop, an off-licence, and three small grocery shops. The first of the shops was where I often bought coffee. The shop owner was a lovely man from Pakistan, though for the last thirteen years a Dublin resident. Ramadan happened while I was in Dublin and most days I spoke with my coffee man about it, his fasting and the challenges. For example, Dublin only has about five hours of darkness, with Ramadan falling at the peak of summer and long hours of light.
On my last morning in Drimnagh before going off to the airport, I went to get a coffee and say goodbye. A free coffee and an interesting discussion later, I was off to the airport. The conversation stuck with me. It was all about Ramadan and the aim to bring the spiritual fruits of a month’s long fasting, prayer and reading scriptures into every day life, until next year’s Ramadan. He talked about the need for reflection about one’s life, how one was living, and how one needs to treat all people with care, love and respect. This Ramadan message contrasts all the Islamophobia that comes through much of the media today. This spiritual impulse expressed so beautifully by the lovely coffee man in the wee shop was my last impression of Ireland, a land in spiritual transformation.