Notes From The Heart: For Kareem

To say the previous year was a year of loss would be an understatement. The truth is we all lost. We lost connections. We lost the opportunity to gather. Some people lost their jobs and businesses, and some people lost hope. We lost loved ones, friends and family. 

As it stands, 2020 is a year that will never be forgotten. There is no doubt this year will be a year that goes down in history books. This will always be known as the year of the pandemic. 

The year 2020 was a year of losses, which is not to say that loss was, and is, or has been limited to the year 2020 itself. Nevertheless, loss was more commonplace during 2020. Or perhaps one could argue that our losses were more publicized than ever before. Somehow, the new normal for the year 2020 was loss. The new normal was the news and the social media reports. The new normal was fear of a virus and fear of the unknown and fear of misinformation. Meanwhile, real life was still happening. Other tragedies took place and all we could ask is, “Was it from Covid?”

For me, the year 2020 was a year of loss. This was a year of change. This was a year of opportunity and growth. This was the year that I had to perform a memorial service for one of my oldest friends, which due to the pandemic, the ceremony was limited to an online setting. We met on the computer screen and viewed one another from the safety of our homes. We had become boxes on a computer screen and talked about the unfairness of it all.

There was hope that we could get together when the virus subsided. The plan was to meet up for an in-person memorial so that we could celebrate life and hold a proper memorial. As an honor and privilege that was offered by my old friend’s father, I was asked to officiate the ceremony. We planned to do this at the old park in our hometown. We planned to gather as old friends until sadly, my old friend’s father passed at the end of the year. Sadly, that memorial never took place. Sadly, another name added to the list of losses for the year of 2020. And sadly, this is nothing new.

Although dying is part of living, I do not want the commonness of death to become the new normal. I do not want to see the subject become desensitized nor do I want to submit to this or submit to the end, as if there is no fight or as if there is no recovery. Better yet, I do not want to submit to this as if there is no hope. 

There was a young man that I would see on a regular basis. His name was Kareem. I can say that I knew him. I can say that I never saw him unhappy. I never heard him complain or show as much as a second of cruelty. Like the rest of us, Kareem faced challenges in life. However, unlike the rest of us, Kareem never allowed this to take away from his amazing personality. He never had anything bad to say. He was loved and appreciated. But more, Kareem was my friend.

I do not know why I was born with two hands. I have ten fingers and ten toes. I have two feet that allow me to walk and two legs that are able to carry the weight of my body. I have two arms to hold the weight of my work. I have eyes that can see and ears that can hear. I do not know why I have the benefits I have. I don’t know why I have the advantages I’ve been given.

I have seen people with advantages and watched them flush this all away. I have watched people destroy their life. I have seen the so-called privileged and the so-called talented and watched them bitch and complain about the subtle unfairness of life. Meanwhile, I never heard Kareem battle with anyone. I never heard him complain about the conditions of his life. He never talked about his disadvantages because the truth is it is us that are disadvantaged.

To me, Kareem will always be famous for his smile. He smiled his boyish smile and this was enough to expose the absurdity of how we behave sometimes. This was enough to understand that the term ”special needs” did not apply to my friend Kareem as much as it applied to us and the rest of the world. This was a young man that faced his challenges. He was eager to live and eager to make friends. Also, Kareem was eager to make us all smile. I tell you this man was heroic.

I saw to it that Kareem should know his value to me. Each morning and at noon for lunchtime, my friend Kareem would eat. It was an honor to make sure he had his breakfast and lunch. This was the least I can do. Getting Kareem food was nothing in comparison to what Kareem did for me. He showed me how ridiculous we can be sometimes. He showed me that complaining is pointless and that life is meant for living, not bitching.

I would ask him, “Are you staying out of trouble?” and he would ask me, “Yes, are you?”
I will miss this.

One thing I believe now more than ever is that good people are truly mirrors for the rest of the world to see. They allow us a reflection to see how beautiful they are and how we look in comparison to them. I was able to see Kareem and know that somehow, I was able to contribute to his smile. I will miss this.

Whatever you do unto the least of my brethren, you do unto me.

Kareem, my friend –
You were far from the least. The world is not as great as it was. Work will never be the same for me. Moreover, my life will never be the same because you have not only blessed me with lessons to live by, you’ve shown me my reflection. You’ve given me a new way to look at the world. You’ve shown me that there is no such thing as disadvantages. This is only a mindset. 

Thank you my friend. 

Rest well and please look over me from time to time.
I could always use a visit from a really good friend.

Risk Strategies (@RiskStrategies) | Twitter

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