Where's Your Umbrella?

Nazeer Ahmed

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Awakin FeatureThe rains failed again that year. It was the third year in succession when there was no rain. The crops had disappeared and the land was a brown swath of dusty rubble. Trees had lost their leaves years ago and stood out like silhouettes of cactus on the dusty horizon. There was a stream that skirted the village in years bygone. Now the riverbed was dry. Where once flowed clean, fresh water from the nearby mountains, there was now a bed of clay, cracked in a checkerboard pattern with gaps as wide as a foot.  No one knew what had happened to the birds except for the vultures that circled the town, looking for a carcass or two of an animal that was left dying.

There was famine in the land. People walked around like sticks, sans flesh, surviving on whatever ration was brought to them by various international charities.

Desperate for help, the people of the village held a meeting under a big banyan tree that was as old as the village. “Let us pray”, said an elderly woman. “Only God can help us now.”

There lived people of many faiths in the village and there ensued a big debate as to where to hold the prayer – in a church, a mosque, a synagogue  or a temple. There was no consensus. Exhausted, they decided to hold their prayer in the open, late that night, under the open sky, away from the town. It was a full moon night and the moon shone with its alluring brightness against a background of shimmering stars.

Amongst the people gathering for prayer a little girl holding hands with her young brother came running from a nearby village, holding high an open umbrella over their heads. Huffing for breath, they stood there, looking up, umbrella still unfurled. The gathered crowd could not but help turn around and wonder what was going on.  Some were curious; others were annoyed and some others were even furious as they kept being poked by the spokes of the umbrella.

Finally a curious bystander asked, “Why did you bring the umbrella?  Can’t you see there is no rain and we have come here to pray for rain?  Only a foolish person would stand on a clear night like this with an open umbrella.”

“Yes  indeed”, chimed in the two young siblings. “We came to pray too. We are certain that our prayer will be answered and it will rain. That is why we brought this big, colorful umbrella.”

Adapted from The Child who Brought an Open Umbrella for Prayer  by Nazeer Ahmed.

Seed questions for reflection: How do you relate to the siblings' strong commitment to being present to the unknown, or loosely, their faith? Can you share a personal story of your umbrella-- an action that emerged from your strong commitment to being present to the unknown (or faith)? What helps you develop such a strong commitment (or faith)?

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12 Previous Reflections:

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    On Jul 4, 2018 Kristin Pedemonti wrote:
     Oh I love this and deeply relate. It is all about sending out your prayer or intention, doing what you are able to connect the dots and then stepping back and trusting that God/Universe or however you name it has heard you and will answer. Perhaps not in the exact way you reequested on in the time frame requested, however if you trust, it does happen eventually. This has been true for me so many times I'm honestly not sure which experience to share with you. One of the more recent ones is that I now serve at the World Bank as a Storytelling Consultant helping staff to see the human story in their data, connect more fully to each other as human beings and honor the people they serve throughout the world. I had sent this intention/prayer out about 6 years ago and in Feburary 2015 I happened to attend a Wellness Retreat Networking event. The husband of the organizer happened to work at the World Bank and the department he worked in was hiring consultants in Storytelling. We struck ... [View Full Comment]

     Oh I love this and deeply relate. It is all about sending out your prayer or intention, doing what you are able to connect the dots and then stepping back and trusting that God/Universe or however you name it has heard you and will answer. Perhaps not in the exact way you reequested on in the time frame requested, however if you trust, it does happen eventually. This has been true for me so many times I'm honestly not sure which experience to share with you. One of the more recent ones is that I now serve at the World Bank as a Storytelling Consultant helping staff to see the human story in their data, connect more fully to each other as human beings and honor the people they serve throughout the world. I had sent this intention/prayer out about 6 years ago and in Feburary 2015 I happened to attend a Wellness Retreat Networking event. The husband of the organizer happened to work at the World Bank and the department he worked in was hiring consultants in Storytelling. We struck up conversation, I sent my CV, was interviewed a week later and 24 hours later got the job. It took 3 years from the setting of my intention, but it happened! And this is just one of dozens of experiences I've had. I feel blessed and grateful. What helps me maintain is the evidence I see all around me that when I trust, life works out! <3 

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    On Jul 4, 2018 kunta wrote:

     Faith of innoscent children is immeasurable.  As a child grows, the brain takes over the heart.  Logic contaminates beauty of the soul.


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    On Jul 3, 2018 Aninda wrote:

    Many a time children show us the way. Having faith. Believing. Living in hope.


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    On Jul 3, 2018 deepti mirani wrote:

     Faith is the ans to everything. Unwavering faith 


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    On Jul 3, 2018 Ambika wrote:

    This is the un-questioned faith that each of us are endowed with as infants  until parents and teachers and the 'caring' adults indoctrinate us into the faithless state. Sad but true. Then an entire adult life and life times are spent in seeking the same faith and truth that we are naturally blessed with.  Well these stories set us thinking. Can I ge back to that same state?  


    1 reply: Amy | Post Your Reply
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    On Jun 30, 2018 david doane wrote:

     I think the siblings' strong commitment was to their faith, not to the unknown.  Being present to the unknown is being present to not knowing.  The siblings were certain that their prayer would be answered and it would rain -- they were being present to their faith that it would rain.  My commitment to being present to the unknown has grown over the years.  We don't know.  There is no certainty.  An action that emerged from my commitment to being present to the unknown is simply speaking my truth, letting go of trying to make a certain outcome happen, and trusting the process.  What helps me develop that commitment is experiencing the spontaneous, alive, creative good that comes from it.


    1 reply: Marcia | Post Your Reply
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    On Jun 29, 2018 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
     Sadly this is the story of many poor countries affected by climate change and man-made devastations. It is an alrm for many countries to tackle this  big human problem.The self -centric mindset needs to be changed to help those who desperately need help. We pray with faith, open our multicolor Human Umbrella and embrace all who are suffering with an open mind and open heart. As I was growing up, I was provided with many umbrellas of kindness, compassion, and affection to protect me, to feed me, grieve my losses, and wipe my tears. My mother was the first such umbrella who nurutured lovingly by making food for me and by waiting for me when I would come home late at night for earning my daily bread. My wife was a big umbrella who left her rich family to marry me and become a part of my poor family. She always stood beside me and worked hard for our family as I was working on my doctoral degree in a foreign country. And when she passed away seven years ago, my children, grand ... [View Full Comment]

     Sadly this is the story of many poor countries affected by climate change and man-made devastations. It is an alrm for many countries to tackle this  big human problem.The self -centric mindset needs to be changed to help those who desperately need help. We pray with faith, open our multicolor Human Umbrella and embrace all who are suffering with an open mind and open heart.

    As I was growing up, I was provided with many umbrellas of kindness, compassion, and affection to protect me, to feed me, grieve my losses, and wipe my tears. My mother was the first such umbrella who nurutured lovingly by making food for me and by waiting for me when I would come home late at night for earning my daily bread. My wife was a big umbrella who left her rich family to marry me and become a part of my poor family. She always stood beside me and worked hard for our family as I was working on my doctoral degree in a foreign country. And when she passed away seven years ago, my children, grand children and my good old friends have been taking care of me. I am blessed to have such multicolor umbellas of compassion, support, emotional generosity, and uncondiotional love.

    May we hold our umbrellas of kindness, compassion and generosity for people who are thirsty, hungry and starving for support and care!
    Namaste!
    Jagdish P Dave


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    On Jun 28, 2018 SUSAN wrote:

    Sad, real life story reflected in comments by Ranuath in 2017 here and still in many places in the world... water is such a precious resource. I can recall living in an area of Japan as a young girl where water was scarce. We would have to fill our bath tubs and large containers with water to bathe and flush toilets.  We had to collect drinking water from natural sources and treat it for drinking. When it would rain, in celebration my family would run out in the rain without any umbrellas, and play in the downpours! 

    For me the story is also a metaphor for scarcity and expecting and visualizing abundance. I live in a foreign country and am a newcomer.  My mantra for meeting new people and for doing and seeing new things, is to be open to new things an dpeople and to say 'yes' to all invitations and opportunities... I expect and hope them to pour in!


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    On Nov 15, 2017 Ragunath wrote:
    Oh, well... we are in the middle of facing a smaller degree of the same situation in our region. It is not a full famine yet but we have had very little rains in the last three years. Most farmers have already spent their yearly profit on digging new bore wells and/or deepening existing ones. Even this bold effort has failed some farmers as their new bore wells have dried up as well. We decided to wait it out. All our crops dried by June and we did not plant anything new after that. We lost many trees. We did some rain water harvesting arrangements as our version of the umbrella. A few storm rains happened in September and the remaining trees have perked up. We have good undergrowth now. But the rains were not enough to recharge the ground water, so we cannot plant anything new yet. The next monsoon is not until next July (our second monsoon in November is already a failure). We have not prayed though. Our scientific mind "knows" that the weather is not personal and an appeal to a God... [View Full Comment]

    Oh, well... we are in the middle of facing a smaller degree of the same situation in our region. It is not a full famine yet but we have had very little rains in the last three years. Most farmers have already spent their yearly profit on digging new bore wells and/or deepening existing ones. Even this bold effort has failed some farmers as their new bore wells have dried up as well. We decided to wait it out. All our crops dried by June and we did not plant anything new after that. We lost many trees.

    We did some rain water harvesting arrangements as our version of the umbrella. A few storm rains happened in September and the remaining trees have perked up. We have good undergrowth now. But the rains were not enough to recharge the ground water, so we cannot plant anything new yet. The next monsoon is not until next July (our second monsoon in November is already a failure). We have not prayed though. Our scientific mind "knows" that the weather is not personal and an appeal to a God behind the non-existing clouds seems absurd. This is clearly the (dried) fruits of our collective bad karma. Farmers seem to be the most affected. But we see that the non-farmers too are affected in so many different ways. All around, great opportunity to cultivate equanimity, if not fruits and grains :). Perhaps the umbrella is not so much a sign of hope as it is a sign of equanimity: In the face of a full blown famine, we try to remain normal as if the miraculously life-giving rains are just around the corner. Because, what is life other than a series of seasonal miracles (like rains from the heavens) that make "normal" life possible?

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    1 reply: Shalini | Post Your Reply

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