gratitude

Engineering Patience In An Age of Instant Gratification

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Growing up in Texas, summers as a kid were unbelievably hot. One of my kids recently asked me, "Why did Allah make Texas so hot?" I told them not even the greatest country in the world can be completely perfect. I remember reading a book, and the kids in there were arguing over who got to sit near the window. I was confused. Why would they want to sit next to the window? I was accustomed to wanting to sit in the middle because that was directly in front of the vents blasting cold air from the AC. This was especially important if the car had been parked outside and had become an oven when you went to sit inside.

My dad used to do something that would drive me crazy. He would start the car and not turn on the AC. He would let the fan run, and tell us we could roll down the windows (which doesn't do much when its 95 degrees). I would plead with him to turn on the AC on max, and he would just sit there and tell me to relax. Once, with the creativity only a kid could muster, I told him "Allah blessed us with AC, so turn it on." He explained that he was trying to teach us to relax, and to be patient.

This is how parents are. They see the ease with which we enjoy the world, and we lose sight of hardships others went through. In many places in the world, especially 20 years ago, air conditioning in a car was a major luxury item instead of a standard part of life.

Now when someone complains about a YouTube video buffering too slow (or not fast enough for HD), I feel like yelling at them to try using a 28.8kbps dial-up connection - the kind I had to grow up with. In fact, a study of the viewing habits of 6.7 million people showed that people abandoned watching a video if it buffered for longer than two seconds. TWO SECONDS. One Mississippi, Two Mississippi... click.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEY58fiSK8E

Social media has made everything quicker. What used to be a 24 hour news cycle is now barely 30 minutes. The half-life of a tweet is less than 3 hours. With this quickening of pace, our expectations have changed as well. If someone doesn't reply to an email within a few hours we get upset. If they don't respond to a text message within an hour, we get impatient. There is a manufactured hurry to each of these interactions.

Patience and gratitude go hand in hand. Patience, as we famously know from the hadith, is at the moment calamity strikes. To have patience in that moment requires a gratitude mindset. It comes down to being cognizant and intentional about each situation - Am I exercising patience? Am I being grateful to Allah?

One way to reclaim this is to engineer moments of patience in our lives. Sit at a red light without touching your phone. It's only 30 seconds, but we are at the point now where the mere thought of that is agonizing for some. Sit down with your kids and just be bored for a little while. Reflect on what is around you and enjoy the quiet moments.

The fast pace of technology is now the norm. That's not necessarily a bad thing. But it does mean that sometimes we just need to sit in the car for a few minutes before turning on the AC - to give ourselves a small reminder and lesson.

Leading Volunteers: How To Treat Them With Dignity

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"None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." (Bukhārī)

Building loyalty within a team at work, a place where people's livelihoods depend on the job, is already difficult enough. So how about when that team consists of volunteers who are only there out of their own free will?

This, like many other issues, is a leadership issue. Volunteers are reporting to a board or committee. The board and committee are often reporting back to a president or amīr of some sort. Even with small and loose volunteer groups, there is still some level of hierarchy and leaders are responsible for those volunteers 'under' them.

Even if you're not in leadership, these are still important tips to help those who are volunteering - and building loyalty within your community or organization.

The rules for this are simple, and don't require much elaboration.

People are humans. They have dreams, fears, and families. They have jobs, they have responsibilities, and they have life in general to deal with. Stop treating them like units of production. Treat them with dignity by showing them that you care. Know their names, know about their families and their kids. Ask about them (sincerely). If you can't show them that you actually care about them - as a person - then don't expect any loyalty from your volunteers.

When you see someone do something you would expect praise for, then praise your volunteers.

Whoever does not thank people (for their favors) has not thanked Allah (properly). [Ahmad]

When you make a mistake, you would expect people to overlook and pardon you. Do the same with your volunteers. The second you get up and berate or rip a volunteer is the same second that they will make the decision to never come back.

So when it comes time for reprimanding someone for making a mistake, give proper naṣīḥah. It needs to be prompt and private. And it needs to be done with mercy - hoping for rectification and hoping for the best for your brother or sister.

When you know you are competent enough to do a task, you usually hate it when someone micromanages you. Leave your volunteers alone. Let them work.

Above all, put yourself in their shoes. Treat them the way you want to be treated.