Indian American man sends hand-written notes offering help to neighbors during Polar Vortex

Sabeel Ahmed with the letter offering help to neighbors during Polar Vortex.
Sabeel Ahmed with the letter offering help to neighbors during Polar Vortex.

Chicago-area resident Sabeel Ahmed says the offer — and invitation for chai and samosa — was also intended to help remove misunderstandings about immigrants and Muslims.

As most of Midwest battled with the bitter cold snap that forced people to bundle up and stay in, an Indian American man thought the time was just right to send out warm greetings and an offer of help to all his neighbors.

Sabeel Ahmed, a resident of Morton Grove, a northern suburb of Chicago, took this as a moment to extend his help and reach out to his neighbors who may be wary about immigrants and Muslims.

Ahmed and his wife, Asma Naheed, delivered 40 hand-written notes during the frighteningly cold weather. The couple sent the notes to their neighbors, which said that they would be happy to offer help for any requirements such as picking up grocery, medications or even shoveling snow during the sub-zero temperatures that engulfed the Chicago area from Tuesday through Thursday.

Talking to the American Bazaar about his uniquely warm gesture, Ahmed said: “I was motivated to do this for two reasons – as it is in cities we live pretty isolated lives so it was a way to connect with our neighbors and to tell them that we are there to care and support them and build a positive community feeling. Also, with a lot of misunderstandings about immigrants and Muslims we also felt it was important for people to know us and know the basic tenets of our faith.”

Ahmed, a doctor by profession, gave up his full-time job to practice community outreach some time ago.

His daughter Zainab made a YouTube video of the family’s gesture, which has been very well-received.

Ahmed and his wife were not only keen to drive and help their neighbors but also were hospitable enough to offer an invite for hot chai and samosas to all neighbors who may choose to come and chat with them during the cold snap.

“People were very positive and they were happy to hear that they had a neighbor who was ready to help,” he told the American Bazaar. “If this inspires more people to stand for each other, our purpose is solved.”

Ahmed was happy to share that the greatest joy he got during the cold days was when an elderly lady from the neighborhood requested him to shovel snow from her home. He says, “Islam is all about helping people. I live by the saying of our Prophet, that you cannot have your food and go to sleep, if your neighbor is empty stomached. I want this message of peace and brotherhood that I have learnt by practicing Islam to reach to people and not negative rhetoric.”

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