Caring for Our Neighbors
August 11, 2020
On April 6, in the span of a few hours, I found out that both of my parents and my younger brother tested positive for Covid-19 and that I was furloughed from my work. I immediately began applying for an unemployment insurance claim for the first time in my life while worrying about the health of the people who meant the world to me.
My family had to truly fight for their lives because of the severity of their symptoms. I will never forget the day when I called my mom to check in because I wasn’t able to go to help physically, and heard my dad in the background saying, “I can’t breathe…I need help.” I felt desperate and helpless, what else could I do besides cry and pray?
I am grateful to share that my family was able to recover from Covid-19 due to the support and prayers from friends and family, and I was also able to return to work.
One of the most touching moments of support was how our Muslim neighbors cared for my Hindu parents. They brought us pans of biryani and offered a religious shawl meant to grant one wish. They had brought the shawl back from a pilgrimage for their family but decided to share it with us instead. We put it on the door handle of our home’s entrance, and my parents respected it like it was as important as something from our own faith. In these times, it was about being and feeling loved and cared for together, not about comparing our differences.
Although our neighbors thought that this was a small gesture to help pray for and support us (and this wasn’t their first time being there for us in a tough time!), it meant the world to me and especially to my parents. The people who had moved in next door went from being strangers to being neighbors, to being our family. My brother and I never considered them the “Muslims next door” but instead as uncle and aunty…and this only strengthened our relationship with them. They inspired me – if they were able to make this small gesture to help us, I needed to go out of my way and work with my fellow IFYC alums to do our part to give back to others.
At this time, IFYC had reached out to me and fellow alums Skyler Oberst and Sara Rahim to experience the “We Are Each Other’s” campaign before it was released to everyone (one of the many perks of being alumni!) and we each found separate inspirations from it. In the spirit of the campaign, each of us (coming from a different faith) made a joined pact to individually give back to our local communities.
Shortly thereafter, civil unrest broke out across the country. We all lived in areas where we felt unsafe to leave our homes, but like my parent’s neighbors, we had to leave our comfort zones to do what was right. Personally, I was inspired to volunteer at the Greater Chicago Food Depository and help package food. In just 3.5 hours, the volunteers there were able to package 1,519 boxes of food, which included 24,304 lbs of food, and 22,253 total meals.
It wasn’t home-cooked and personally delivered as our neighbors had done, but the wholesome warmth we felt was magnified when I was able to care for other members of our community. While we continue to work together and carry each through this pandemic, I ask that you with the IFYC network take steps to care for our community and neighbors!
Parth Bhansali is a first-generation Indian-American and currently works at Groupon as the head of travel sales in international and central U.S on their strategic partnerships team. He has visited over 35 countries, including speaking at the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions. Working in a corporate business environment, Parth aspires to transform interfaith conversation and cooperation into something that transcends the faith-based community and continues in other industries. You can follow him on Twitter or Instagram.
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