Koonj (this post is not directed at you it was just inspired by your post) has an excellent and fun read over at her blog about the Masjid Ice Maidens. Since, I have had the opportunity to be one of those sister volunteers, I have a bit of a different take on it.
I have volunteered and on occasion was volunteered by someone else to be the masjid Ice Maiden. It’s a really tough job and this Ramadan I did not volunteer. My heart went out to each of the sisters I saw volunteering a various iftars and fundraisers because I know their struggles and pain and that they were not enjoying the full event as much as I was.
I do always try give my salaam to the sisters, to open the door for them, and to smile at them even when they are clearly circumventing the established, announced, and published rules but sometimes you just have to be forceful in order to get cooperation from the sisters.
At iftar, we have ice maidens serving the food because some sisters and their children always try to to co-opt the food, take as much as possible of the good stuff before many of the sisters have even finished praying maghrib or the sunnah afterward and waste it or let their children waste it so that the sisters at the end of the line that have been waiting patiently get the dregs.
And us ice maidens may not get anything at all, other than the salad which always seems to be leftover in abundance. We will leave to go to the store to purchase more plates, bowls, cups, and plastic cutlery with our own money for you to use. Does anyone ever wonder how all the food gets delivered, heated, set out on the tables, so that all you have to worry about is not dropping any on your clothes?
During the taraweeh, we have ice maidens at the door to direct the sisters with children under a certain age that are going to play and not pray to take their children to the free childcare or to the prayer rooms for mothers with infants and very young children so that they can remain together.
I can’t tell you the number of sisters who do everything to try to sneak their children into the musallah under their abaya knowing full well that that their children will be noisy, running in the aisles during salaah, running off with other people’s keys, or peeing on the floor of the musallah. And of course, it will not be the mother but the ice maidens who come to clean the area because she was to focused with her khushoo to notice that her child was causing a disturbance or had to go the bathroom.
And then there are those who argue or talk about you in their language which they think you cannot understand all the while making faces at you because you are enforcing the pre-published masjid rules. I’ve learned some key choice phrases in several languages from listening to these sisters.
We pick up the shoes of sisters who leave them on the floor and place them nicely on the shoe racks or we provide plastic bags so you can keep your shoes with you in the musallah. We will find extra chairs or kleenex for you to use in the musallah. We are always on alert to the needs of others and anticipate problems and issues and work pro-actively to solve them while everyone else just sits there and snickers that it’s not their problem.
We hold your children, purses, etc. when you go to make wudu. We remind you where you left your keys and cell phones that you didn’t turn off. We will track down and reunite you with your lost children or their lost teddy bear with the dedication of a bounty hunter. We will do our best to handle all of your requests even the more outlandish ones or direct you to the person who can.
We come early to masjid and events yet rarely get to enjoy the calm and benefits of coming early to the masjid and staking out a good spot in the front row or strategically placed under one of the ceiling fans. We usually have to squeeze in against the wall or in the very back or in the hallway. We may not even get to enjoy the program, the lecture, or praying the taraweeh because we are still busy doing this and that.
We stay long after other sisters have departed in sha Allah with their eman refreshed and rejuvenated. We clean up the leftover trash, spilled drinks, vacuum the masjid, fold up the chairs and tables, clean the dishes, make sure everything has been put away properly.
And we don’t ask for any wages or thanks, we seek our reward with Allah the Most Merciful. And for the next event or eid it will be us, our same small group of sisters and maybe one or two new faces that volunteers to come early, do the set-up and the clean-up, take the insults, enforce the rules, eat late, and leave late so that the majority of our sisters can come for their worship and to socialize and not have to worry about anything of the long hours of mundane minutia and planning that went into the event.
I do not make excuses for the poor manners or behavior of some of the masjid volunteers yet perhaps it is the behavior of some of the sisters and their children which has sapped and exhausted the volunteers good cheer and charitable spirit with which they began the day long before most of the sisters even got dressed to leave their homes in order to come to the masjid.
Instead of greeting if you even greet the ice maidens with your disapproving looks and apprehension, you could smile, give them your salaam, and ask them if they would like any help. Or better yet, you could volunteer yourself so that the small pool of ice maidens can get a break and enjoy their salaah, meal, lecture, or sit and socialize with their friends for a change. But if you can’t do that than maybe you could make dua for them and say alhamdulillah someone is doing it so that I don’t have to.