Muslim Man Is Praying In The Mosque
By Roberto Lara, Director of Communications at the Fetzer Institute 

In the cold embrace of a winter evening in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a moment of unexpected clarity emerged from the mist, not just the literal fog that disrupted my travel plans but also the metaphorical haze that often separates our personal and professional lives. I was en route to New York City to honor a dear mentor at his memorial service, when my journey unexpectedly became a profound lesson in the power of spirituality and the beauty of human connection. 

Jack Anderson, a revered figure in the dance world and a pillar of support for Dance at St. Peter's — a dance ministry I founded in the heart of Midtown Manhattan — had left an indelible mark on many, including myself. My mission was to pay tribute to his legacy through dance, a task that seemed on the brink of faltering when my flight was canceled due to fog. Desperation led to a decision — to take a two-hour Uber to Detroit, hoping against hope to catch my connecting flight to New York. 

The driver, a young immigrant whose accent reminded me of my own migration, agreed to the lengthy trip. As we ventured into the fog-shrouded night, a sense of urgency enveloped us, each for our own deeply personal reasons. Then, unexpectedly, he took an exit, stirring a surge of frustration within me. Was this detour really necessary? 

His request was simple yet profound: a brief pause to pray. 

As he voiced his need, I noticed an undercurrent of apology, as if he had faced rebuke for such requests before. His humility and the evident importance of this moment to him moved me deeply. I reassured him, expressing not only my understanding but the honor I felt in facilitating this act of faith. "Please, take all the time you need," I insisted, recognizing the sacredness of the moment he was about to embrace. 

His appreciation was evident in his repeated apologies and thanks, but I found myself equally grateful. This shared moment transcended the mere transactional nature of our initial encounter, becoming a testament to the profound connections that spirituality can forge between individuals from different walks of life. 

Witnessing him lay out his prayer mat in a deserted parking lot, I was struck by the universality of the need for spiritual connection. As I bore witness to this holy act, any annoyance I felt was replaced by a deep respect for his commitment to his faith. Moved by the solemnity of the moment, I decided to embrace this opportunity for reflection and prayer as well, joining in silent solidarity. It was a poignant reminder of the time and space we carve out for sacred encounters in our daily lives, regardless of the setting.  

Back on the road, the gratitude that passed between us was palpable—he for my respect toward his spiritual Muslim practice, and I for the privilege of witnessing such a personal, devout act. 

As I reflect on this shared moment of prayer and the subsequent conversation, I am reminded that our workplaces, often secular spaces, hold immense potential for spiritual expression. Embracing our whole selves, including our spiritual and religious traditions, can transform not just the individual but also the collective ethos of our work environments. 

This is not just a story about me and an Uber driver on a foggy night; it's a poignant call to action for all of us as we journey along this road we call life. We are invited to recognize and celebrate the diverse tapestry of spiritual practices that employees bring (or could bring) to their professional lives. By fostering an environment where spiritual and religious practices are not merely tolerated but celebrated, we can move toward a future where shared human flourishing is the norm, not the exception. 

To anyone who is wondering, I did make my flight to New York. I was less anxious and perfectly centered for the memorial of dance for my dear friend and mentor, thanks to an unexpected encounter with an Uber driver.

Learn what prayer, art, and nature have in common by checking out Fetzer's latest Study of Spirituality. This study is more than just numbers — it's about real people and real experiences. It's a journey into the sacred heart of what keeps us grounded in times of crisis