x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Shopping with Dad meant more than treats

'Even though my father actively sought to pass on the values he wanted us to have throughout life, it was always the random acts of kindness we learnt so much from.'

One of my fondest childhood memories growing up in Dubai was grocery shopping with my father, especially during Ramadan.

As a 7-year-old, I did not know that I was leaving with far more than the bag of goodies I was so pleased to be carrying out of the supermarket doors.

Some of the lessons that resonate most are those we don't realise we are learning.

Even though my father actively sought to pass on the values he wanted us to have throughout life, it was always the random acts of kindness we learnt so much from.

Whenever we would go to the supermarket I would rush off to the sweets section. As soon as I had dropped my chocolate bar into the trolley, my father would glance over before asking: "Is that it?"

That is when I would remember and hurry back to pick out a few more for the rest of the family. I would reappear with my small hands tightly gripping what was clearly far more than I could carry.

It was to become one of the early lessons I was taught about generosity towards others.

The first time I returned from my brief shopping spree and my father quizzed me, I said defensively: "But I don't know which chocolates to pick out." He responded: "It doesn't matter, choose a variety for everyone."

If I forgot again, he would be more direct in his approach, prodding me to think about others - my sisters, mum and the friends that would be visiting us.

So many years later, my sisters and I still carry those teachings with us. It is even more apparent in Ramadan when we sit down for many shared meals and giving to others goes without saying.

As the youngest of three, with a considerable age gap, I was keen to start fasting early, although my parents were opposed to it because I was quite thin for my age.

I would drink water whenever I needed to and was encouraged to snack, but I always preferred to have iftar with the family. That experience on its own taught me about the enduring qualities of discipline and patience.

I still feel that Ramadan is an especially good time for a child to learn lifelong lessons about family ties, consideration towards others, spirituality and the simple acts of kindness that should punctuate our daily life.

* Bana Qabbani is a reporter with The National.