Okay, tiling’s done, but the house is still upside down and I was starting to ask myself, “What the heck’s so wrong with a shabby kitchen anyway???”

There’s something kind of tempting to living beneath your means.

On the one hand you could try to convince yourself that you’re above all that superficial nonsense and it’s inside that counts, not the state of your kitchen cabinets.

That notion is reinforced by a story my dad used to tell me when I was growing up.

About a very pious man who used to wear fine fine clothes of silk, but he had a little patch of burlap sewn into a spot on the left half of his chest.

People would ask him why he ruined his clothes like that with that patch of burlap, and the man replied, “The fine clothes are to fulfill society’s expectations. I am a wealthy man and they expect me to dress a certain way. The patch of burlap is over my heart, and that’s for God.”


What a silly thing to do!

Every year as Ramadan approaches I start reading through the Quran, in English as well as my halting Arabic, to kind of refresh its message in my mind.

I always get something new from each reading.

Was it last year or the year before that I seemed to focus on all the ayats where God encourages people to spend out of what He has provided for them?

It surprised me all these references to spending.

Of course they come along with admonishments about not being spendthrift, that is not throwing your money away on foolishness.

And from the words of the Prophet (peace  be upon him) he said that a person who has been blessed with wealth should reflect that in their standard of dress and living. Doing so shows gratitude to God for those very blessings.

And we’re really really discouraged from hoarding and piling up wealth.

In fact there’s a chapter towards the end of the Quran that refers to that very phenomenon of hoarding.

We’ve been in this townhouse for twenty-four years, and we bought the house when it was ten years old.

This is probably the first kitchen renovation it’s ever got.

And in spending I thought of a story I wrote for my anthology Many Windows. It’s called The Locket and contains references to the celebration of Buddha’s birthday.

The whole anthology is really about community, and that story in particular is about the way we, as individuals, rely on each other economically. The way our livelihoods are so intertwined.

There is so much benefit in the fair trade of goods and services.

While the contractor came in to do the tiling, didn’t we strike up a conversation and share cultural ideas, talking about how my beloved Blue Jays had won the game against the Tampa Bay rays?

The chinese people at the place we’re getting our cabinets, don’t they deal with us on good terms? And the lady who’s been dealing with us turned to me and said, “Oh your husband is so picky.” And I nodded and said, “Yup, sometimes I wonder how I passed inspection.”

She chuckled and said something about her boyfriend having really good taste too, and wasn’t it good that he did. In that moment we shared something in common.

Don’t such positive cultural interactions provide fodder to erase years of prejudice and insularity where people stick to only their own cultures?

There’s nothing like business to put prejudice in its place.

We benefit and they benefit, and hopefully, when it’s all done, I’ll have a sparkling kitchen that will better reflect the blessings that God has bestowed upon us.

But in the mean time, I have to wash the dishes in the laundry tub and deal with the topsy turviness of it all.