On my way into work one evening, I was waiting to cross the street over towards my hospital and I was standing next to a tan-skinned middle-aged stranger with a beard. He looked to me and apparently noticed I was also a tan-skinned bearded man.
“As-salaam alaikum,” he said to me with some hesitation in his voice. This is Arabic for “Hello.” It literally means, “Peace be unto you.”
I am not of Arab descent nor do I speak Arabic. I was born in Virginia. But, I knew the proper reply.
“Wa-alaikum salaam,” I responded immediately. (“And unto you be peace.”)
The stranger smiled. “Muslim?” I noticed a very thick accent.
“No,” I replied.
“Where you from?”
“My family comes from India.”
“Does that make you Sikh or Hindu or…?”
The stranger smiled again. “Well, we all worship the same God.”
I smiled back. “Indeed.”
We’d now crossed the street and were headed in different directions.
“Have a good night!” he said to me.
And that was that.