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MIT student blogger Afeefah K. '21

Thank You by Afeefah K. '21

for unity and kindness

For the past few days, I’ve been walking around with this weird feeling on the inside. As if goosebumps are embedded deep into my skin. Subconsciously, I’ve been feeling a lot of feelings. Sadness. Despair. Hopelessness. Confusion. Fear.

When I first received news about the tragedy in New Zealand, I was unfazed. Not shocked at all. The first thought that came to my mind was again. It’s happened again. And so I set my phone to the side and continued on with my life. I avoided social media for the next 24 hours, because I simply didn’t feel capable of confronting reality. But subconsciously, my amygdala was processing all kinds of emotions. These emotions accumulated into internal goosebumps. And when that wasn’t enough, eventually into tears. Tears that initially just sat on my lower eyelids. Then became streaks down the dry skin of my cheek. And eventually became a loud sob.

I can’t remember the last time I cried like that. Alone and on a sunny Sunday afternoon. But there I was weeping. Weeping for people whose faces now flood my Facebook feed. Weeping for people who were as innocent and defenseless as it could get. Weeping because in this incredibly beautiful world, hatred and inhumanity still persists. And I didn’t know what to do with myself.

Today was a day of different feelings. Hope. Togetherness. Gratitude.

Today, the MIT community gathered for a Vigil of Hope. Classmates, friends, colleagues came together to offer comfort in their presence. They didn’t have to be there and yet chose to come out and support the Muslim community and humanity at large. In that moment, the goosebumps returned. Because beauty and kindness can be just as all-encompassing as pain and fear. Different kinds of tears ran down my cheek as the Chapel filled with prayers in Arabic, Hebrew, Sanskrit and English alike. “Unity in the face of diversity.” And for that, I say Thank You.

After the vigil, I stood in the neighboring lawn, rummaging through my backpack. I had to run to class and I couldn’t remember where my assignment was. I knew it was somewhere in my bag and so I stood, flipping through a never-ending collection of loose pages. Then came the wind, scattering every single paper into every single direction possible. As I stood there, accepting that my notes, psets, practice exams were gone with the wind, the people around me begin to rush over. I tell them not to worry about it, to get on with their lives. That I’ll be ok without the papers. But I kid you not, approximately ten people began running around collecting the thin sheets of paper. Ten people that stopped in their lives to help a disoriented, highly disorganized and mega-emotional gal get her things together. All with a smile on their face. A reminder that kindness still exists. And for that, I say Thank You.