Amazing morning I had today.
So I had thought, "How can I send the Muslim community a message that most Christians would not burn a Quran? How can I let them know that, as far as it depends on us, we will live at peace and welcome anyone who comes to us?" Especially because that so-called pastor in Florida was threatening to burn the Quran. I wanted to send a better message.
I remember after so many tragedies around the world, people left flowers outside embassies. I remember after a tragedy at NASA, people left flowers outside of JSC. So I thought, "I'll leave flowers outside the gates of the local mosque on 9/11. That way the Muslim community will know that there is another reaction to Islam."
I bought flowers -- plenty of flowers, I thought -- and went early on 9/11 to the nearest mosque. I was wondering if I would see anyone there and have a chance to explain the gift, but I didn't see anyone.
I had been hoping to see someone so I could explain, but I settled for just leaving the flowers outside the gate, hoping that flowers as a goodwill gesture were fairly self-explanatory. I laid them out along the entrance from the road to their driveway.
I looked back at the finished product and thought, "That's not enough flowers." So I went to get some more.
When I came back, the flowers I had left earlier were gone. I wondered to myself who would have removed them. I still didn't see any signs of anyone at the mosque; the few vehicles there were in odd places in the lot as if they'd been left overnight, and it was early yet. I decided to just set out the second batch of flowers and leave.
While I was setting out the flowers, an elderly fellow drove onto the mosque's driveway. He rolled down his window and asked me what I was doing. Glad for an actual person to explain to, I said I was leaving flowers to send them a better message than some of the others they may have heard. He drove through the gates into the mosque.
I finished setting out the flowers quickly; now that there was someone there, I wanted the chance to ask where the first batch had gone and explain why I wanted to leave them.
That's when things got interesting.
While I was heading towards the gate (really a short trip; the driveway isn't that long) I saw another fellow coming my way. I was glad to see him coming at that point, since I didn't quite know where to knock to talk to someone, and it would have been a long walk across the parking lot too.
But he drove across the parking lot quickly -- too quickly, at nearly highway speeds. And he parked right behind my car -- too close. At first I didn't realize why he would park so recklessly close to another vehicle; I soon realized that there was nothing reckless or accidental at all in why he parked so close.
I wished him good morning. He began shouting at me, very angry, asking what I was doing. He asked who told me to leave the flowers. I said they were a gift.
He asked who gave me permission to leave flowers. I was surprised, but I had carefully left them outside the gate by the road; I just answered that I had meant them as a gift, and as a good gesture, not intending any harm. (I had no thought of needing permission to give flowers. I was hoping that by staying calm and open, he would become reassured that the gift was meant exactly as that, and see that there was nothing bad about leaving flowers.)
"I'm calling the police!" he said quite angrily. Then I realized his parking job so close behind me was meant to trap my car and prevent me from leaving. (Interesting that he chose to trap me as he sped across the lot before even speaking to me, knowing nothing except that I had come to drop off flowers.)
The other fellow, the elderly gentleman, was driving out now. The angry one told him to go park his car on the other side of mine, which would have had me even more thoroughly boxed in. I did not hear what the elderly fellow said to him. I mentioned that I had meant it as a good thing; the elderly fellow expressed his disapproval of my leaving flowers, but left without following the angry fellow's instructions to block in my car on another side.
I told the angry fellow that I didn't mind waiting for the police. (I thought this needed saying since he seemed concerned whether I was trapped enough.) I was glad to wait if it would ease his mind and show him I meant no trouble at all, and in fact had been trying to show them some kindness.
He made quite a show of phoning in my license plate number and describing me to the police. I offered to talk to the police and give them my personal information, but he did not respond.
He scooped up all the flowers and put them in the bed of the truck. I said, "Of course, you'll save the flowers so the police can see." He looked at me without answering, but he did leave the flowers in the bed of his truck.
The agitated fellow did not wait where I could see, but left his truck blocking my car. I wasn't even sure if the police had agreed to come or not, and as time went by I became skeptical. Honestly, I could have left by making a small turn across their lawn and circling around, but I didn't want to give him any cause to suspect I had meant any harm or was avoiding the police, so I decided I would give them an hour before I pressed the issue of whether the police were really coming. I waited sitting on the low brick wall outside the gate.
I suppose it was 15 or 20 minutes before the police arrived. The police spoke first to the angry fellow who had called them. I couldn't hear the conversation because of the distance, except that his voice was raised, shouting, at a few points. He had remained decidedly angry and hostile the whole time.
Then the police came over and asked me what was going on. I told them that I wanted to do something to show them that not everyone was against them, this being 9/11 and that nutcase in Florida stirring up trouble, that I wanted to try to do something better.
It was all sorted out within a minute or two of the police coming. I agreed not to come back, naturally (I'd had no idea that it would be taken badly in the first place). And the police made him move his truck so that I could leave.
An amazing morning, all things considered.
But if someone says to you, "Nobody ever makes any goodwill gestures towards the Muslim community" -- just know that they're quite wrong about that.
How those goodwill gestures are received is another question entirely.
(And to a couple of people who know me in real life: No, really, I don't think that was a good plan, all things considered, and I am not planning on any repeats.)