Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to this week’s Grateful Heart Monday entry, where gratitude is always the main focus, which for today is for Kazi Mannan, owner of The Sakina Halal Grill in Washington, D.C., a place that truly makes a huge impact and a big difference with the homeless and the hungry.

At the Sakina Halal Grill, no one is EVER turned away for a meal, even if they don’t have any money, and no one is ever asked about their circumstances either when they can’t pay. There are never any judgments and no questions ever asked, period. Inspired by his mother, Sakina, whom he named his restaurant after, Kazi was raised with nine siblings in Pakistan without access to running water or electricity. Even though they were immensely poor, Kazi’s mother still consistently gave away abundant amounts of food to those in her village in need. Following one basic philosophy, her belief was that God would always make sure there was plenty left for her family and she was never wrong, as Kazi and his siblings never went hungry. When Kazi eventually came to America at 25 years old looking for greater opportunities with only five dollars in his pocket, he worked hard as a gas station attendant and a limo driver saving every penny he could, consistently praying that God would guide him to what he was meant to do with his life and his earnings. Almost twenty years later, that answer finally came.

Kazi had been frequently dining at an Indian restaurant downtown and eventually had become good friends with its owner. When that owner began to experience financial hardships and was complaining about the difficulties in continuing to run his restaurant, Kazi felt his spirit move and said he wanted to buy his friend’s restaurant. A week later, the place became his. After redecorating and naming the restaurant after his mother, he opened and immediately went to a local homeless shelter and invited everyone there to join him for a free meal. Many of the homeless didn’t believe him and figured there must be some catch. There wasn’t. After Kazi convinced them of that, they came and enjoyed a delicious authentic Pakistani-Indian meal, as they learned his mission was to never let anyone go hungry, NO MATTER WHAT. Word spread quickly after that, both to the homeless and to many soon-to-be paying customers.

The Sakina Halal Grill has now become exceptionally popular and extremely busy and has a four-star rating. The homeless and the paying often sit side by side, including many White House staffers and other noteworthy people from the nation’s capital. Kazi is often asked by his customers how he keeps his place open with serving so many free meals. His answer is always that his only responsibility is to do what he knows is right and to leave the rest to God, which thus far, he’s been quite successful, never having any financial issues, even during this Coronavirus pandemic. His doors remain open from 1pm to 9pm every day for takeout for both the homeless who can’t pay and for the customers who can.

Kazi has one wish for every anyone who comes to know him and that’s for each person to share a meal once a week with someone less fortunate. His belief is that if everyone did, the entire world would begin to align with the ultimate goal of achieving peace and understanding. Kazi’s latest venture is an even greater far-reaching project to achieve this goal. He’s created a foundation that’s going to partner with 50 restaurants across the country, all operating on Sakina’s model to feed the hungry and the homeless. Whenever asked for personal advice from those who become inspired by his philosophy, Kazi suggests each perform one simple act of kindness for 30 days straight outside their immediately family, even if it’s simply offering a compliment to a stranger, and keeping a daily kindness journal in the process. He says in doing so it will become a habit and make a big difference both in their life and in the world.

So, out of all the gratitude I’ve expressed thus far under this series of my blog, I honestly can’t think of a better person who deserves to be the focus of some gratitude, which is why I’m honoring Kazi Mannan and The Sakina Halal Grill for today’s Grateful Heart Monday.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Question For The Day

Today’s question is…

What is one thing you’ve seen or read about someone doing to pay it forward by offering some random act of kindness during this Coronavirus pandemic?

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

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Finding The Positive News Surrounding The Coronavirus…

With all the negative news out there lately surrounding the Coronavirus, I felt it important today to share some positive news on that front. While statistics have shown that negative news sells, I say that positive news will help to make this world a far better place to live in right now!

In light of that, there are many reports of restaurants out there handing out free toilet paper with their take-out orders to help those in need who couldn’t find a single roll on grocery store shelves. Restaurants like Libby’s Southern Comfort in Covington, Kentucky, Backroads BBQ in Lebanon, Indiana, Cambridge Bar and Grill in Cambridge, Minnesota, The Beacon Tap in Des Plaines, Illinois, or the Cask & Pig Kitchen and Alehouse in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, to name just a few of the many places that have become willing to help in such a unique way.

Then there are reports of those who are helping the elderly who are at risk by doing their shopping for them. Take Rebecca Mehra for example. She was walking into a grocery store last month when she heard a woman yell to her from their car. When she walked over and found an elderly woman and her husband there with their window just slightly cracked, the woman explained in tears that she was afraid to go in the store, so Rebecca bought their groceries for them to help keep them safe. Along the same lines, Samantha Kelly set up a hashtag on Twitter titled #SelfIsolationHelp, solely for the purpose of helping people just like those that Rebecca Mehra aided.

While one of the biggest fears right now is how people are going to pay their rents for their housing, some are helping on that front like Michael Che of Saturday Night Live who decided to pay one month’s rent for all 160 apartments in a New York Public Housing complex where his grandmother lived before she died. Along the same lines is apartment owner Mario Salerno, who owns 18 apartment buildings in Brooklyn. He cancelled the rent for all of his tenants for the month of April, hoping only to relieve some stress off those living in any of his buildings during this difficult time. I found many other reports of rents being waived as well!

And as people have to at times venture out, there are plenty of reports of people sewing free protective masks for those in need like the Lachance family in Central Maine who have been creating a storm of them for midwives, priests, elderly people, and those with immunity issues from their surrounding community. Joining them are numerous others including Dr. Martina Puzanov and her 12-year old daughter Veronika in Amherst, New York, Tammara Ozee of Harrisburg, Illinois, and an 80-member Shawnee Quilters Guild in Ava, Illinois. Even businesses that normally do clothing repair such as Dang’s Alternations, owned by Nga Nguyen and her husband, have since converted their business into solely making protective masks all while working 14-hour days!

And I mustn’t forget to mention plenty of famous people who are using their wealth to contribute to relief efforts like NBA Charlotte Hornets star Bismack Biyombo donating over $1 million worth of medical supplies to the Congo, or Zion Williamson of the NBA New Orleans Pelicans covering all the salaries of the Smoothie King Center where his games are played, or Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian who opted to forego his own salary for six months to prevent layoffs in his company, or actress Blake Lively and actor Ryan Reynolds who both donated $1 million to Feeding America and Food Banks Canada, or NFL Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his wife Ciara donating 1 million meals throughout Seattle, or Netflix establishing a $150 million relief fund, or Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation donating $5 million to relief efforts, or my personal favorite, Starbucks, who has chosen to pay workers for 30 days, even if they stay home! Credit also to Kylie Jenner for donating $1 million to L.A. hospitals, NFL New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees for donating $5 million to the state of Louisiana, Angelina Jolie for donating $1 million to children affected by the coronavirus, and Oprah Winfrey, Pink, and Paris Hilton all donating millions to the COVID-19 relief efforts as well.

As I searched the internet for other positive news stories surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, I found countless ones of where people have chosen to pay it forward by doing their own random acts of kindness, solely to help make a difference during such a difficult time. While the majority of the mainstream news seems to regularly focus in on all the drama and negativity surrounding this virus, there is a lot of positive news out there, you just have to look for it. I’m thankful I did, because I have a much better outlook now on what people in our country and around the world are doing to help us all make it through!!!

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson