People come into your life and people leave it. Not everyone is able to hold their hands and get their blessings. We should approach everyone with kindness. And acts of kindness do not happen when you sit and wait but when you set off without putting it off anymore.
What can we do today for the people?
How can we be useful for them?
There is this family who lives by these principles in Ankara. They are the kind of people, who cannot sit down to eat, if their neighbour goes hungry; who cannot go to sleep if an orphan does not have a pair of shoes; who cooks food and brings to the door of the elderly people in their neighbourhood.
Doing charity is central to their life, which they built around good deeds and kindness. These two people are Fatma and Necat Bilezikçi.
Indeed kindness is their heritage. Before we introduce them to you we should better tell you about Haji Raşit Ünal, from whom they have inherited kindness.
A Heritage of Kindness
Fatma Bilezikçi’s father, Hacı Raşit Ünal or Haji Father as his son-in-law called him was the father of not only his own offspring but also of orphans, homeless, in other words of all who are in need. When he died he willed that his daughter and son-in-law keep this family tradition so that those whom he used to look out for would not be left unprotected.
Haji Raşit Ünal started doing charity by distributing potable water in front of Hacı Bayram-ı Veli Mosque in Ankara. He knew that giving away water was a valuable charity indeed. So he used to pack his car with water barrels and go fill in the sabeels lining up before the mosque.
One day when Haji Raşit Ünal is at the bakery buying baguettes he notices stale loaves of bread stocked up at the back. “How about I buy them all and hand out to the needy,” he thinks. He acts on this idea and buys them all before putting them in his car and starting off. From that day onwards Haji Raşit Ünal would warm up stale bread he bought off the bakery at home and distribute them one by one on the streets or even deliver them to homes. He further rents the flat across his house and hires a tutor to make sure that the children in his neighbourhood are educated in religious matters. He also makes sure that his daughter Fatma Bilezikçi is involved in charity work from an early age.
Fatma initially found it hard to get up early in the morning and go door to door to deliver free bread. Sometimes she even wished that his father would not show up that day. But once she was immersed in it she started to feel the joy of sharing and encouraged her husband to get involved as well. So this is how their life is shaped by their charity work now. It started helping their father and has turned to a lifestyle, a lifestyle of sharing and caring.
Starting off the Day with Kindness
Fatma Bilezikçi and her spouse Necat Bilezikçi continue the charity work their father passed down to them by adding new things everyday. The family members support each other in this work, which requires a lot of sacrifice. They start off the day very early. After getting 4-hour sleep they are up and headed to the bakery. This does not disturb Necat Bilezikçi at all. To his friends, who tell he is working too much, “If I could I would never sleep. I just go to bed to let my body rest” he responds.
Necat Bilezikçi goes to bed at 12 and gets up at 4 a.m. everyday. In pitch dark of the night he hits the road to hand out free bread in winter and snow, be it hot or cold. While the entire city is asleep he is headed to the bakery to pick up bagels and buns. Afterwards he is headed to the bakeries to pick up baguettes. Once he puts the baguettes in his car he gets back home. Necat Bilezikçi builds a bridge between the needy and the food, which would go to waste otherwise. In an interview Necat Bilezikçi says that he does his best to get to the bagel shops and bakeries on time as even half an hour delay would result in all that food ending up in the trash and this is something he never wants to let happen.
Fatma Bilezikçi says that even though they really wish to go to visit Mecca for umrah they cannot, as they cannot entrust this duty to anyone else. Her husband makes a simple calculation: “If I stay in Mecca for umrah one week from a minimum of 500 baguettes a day thousands of bread would end up in trash bin. And what shall all the people, who await my deliveries, would do for one week?”
A gentleman with such thoughtfulness, Necat`s day that starts off with charity does not end after he brings the baguettes home. After he brings buns, bagels and baguettes at 6:30 am he leaves home this time to serve as school bus for the children aged 4-6 in his neighbourhood. Bilezikçi family rented downstairs of their apartment just like their father Haji Raşit Ünal did years ago; in order to create a place where young children can receive religious education. While Necat picks up the kids to attend class from their homes, at home his wife Fatma warms up the baguettes and buns to be distributed to the needy.
As the kids enter the apartment building the scene changes immediately, their laughter and joy cheer up the entire building. The teacher tutoring the kids is Bilezikçi family`s daughter as well. She also is a part of this charitable team. She pays attention to every kinds of needs of the children and imparts knowledge in them with a mum`s compassion.
Long Awaited Moment
After Necat Bilezikçi brings the kids to the place of their classroom, he drives off to distribute the baguettes and buns warmed up and loaded back in his car. Around 10:30 am he is headed to the neighbourhoods anticipating his arrival.
The siren of Bilezikçi family`s car has a unique sound to it. It is the sound of love, kindness, and joy. After he enters the neighbourhood Necat turns on the siren, then all women, children and the needy gather around his car. It is a real sight to see. Once everyone is gathered Bilezikçi family starts giving away the baguettes with care and great enthusiasm. After bags are filled with baguettes and bagels everyone returns home with smiling faces and grateful hearts.
Necat reports that he delivers baguettes to the doors of some families by himself. The reason behind this is so moving: “Some families are crowded and they need more baguettes than an average family would need. Yet they are embarrassed to come and pick it up. Some are elderly… They are unable to go out everyday. Therefore every other day I would go to their door to deliver baguettes.”
After getting to know Necat and witnessing his kindness some bakers, who wanted to become a part of this charity work, offered to donate freshly baked baguettes. Every night after they bake their batch of baguettes they would call Necat to come and pick it up. Then he delivers them to the families who are overjoyed by the sight of fresh baguettes as if that is the most beautiful food on earth. Fatma Bilezikçi tells that the recipients would even say that “Now my household has become the richest in the world” to express their happiness.
Bilezikçi couple becomes happy when they make another person happy and they cannot get rest when someone is in need until they meet his need. The only thing they think day and night is adding more to their list of good deeds and pass down this tradition that they have inherited from their father to their children when the time comes. Necat Bilezikçi advises not to wait to do an act of kindness. “You should just say Bismillah and start off at what you can and what is within your means to do good.” “God loves those who do good” he adds.
Meeting the Orphans
Necat Bilezikçi has a soft spot for orphans. He is ready to make any sacrifice if it is about an orphan. The Prophetic tradition, “Who among the Muslims takes care of an orphan Allah will reward him with paradise” has affected him deeply. He mentions time and again that taking care of an orphan has a different place in his life. They are a charitable couple that works to make sure that they have the means to continue helping out orphans and they receive what they need.
Fatma and Necat visit houses and neighbourhoods one by one after they make up their mind to care for orphans. They would seek out the orphans in their town and reach out to them. They still continue their search. They both are very careful about this matter and even compete with each other in a good way.
While caring for orphans, they do not only support them financially or physically but also emotionally. Necat Bilezikçi says “Sometimes patting their shoulder is far more important than giving money, food, or clothes. A smile, a kind word is what they need most.”
The couple regards the orphans as their own offspring. Inspired by his keen attention to orphan children Fatma calls her husband “father of orphans.” Sometimes even their own children would jokingly say “Dad I wish I were an orphan so that you would pay so much more attention to me,” his wife Fatma reports with a smile. The orphan children in return love their uncle Necat and aunty Fatma, which they sometimes express with words or write down in a letter.
Bilezikçi couple is so truly, sincerely and passionately invested in orphans so much so that they do not refrain from using up all their resources to meet all their needs. Not just for a couple of years but from the moment they meet until well into their adulthood, they cover all their living and education expenses and even prepare the trousseau of those of marriagable age.
Another beautiful thing the charitable couple does is to take the orphans on a holiday every summer. After arranging a holiday house for this purpose Fatma and Necat Bilezikçi drives the orphan and his family there with everything that they might need is provided. While the orphan’s family has fun Bilezikçi family drives back home with contented hearts. A week later they would make the same journey to pick up the family from their holiday abode and bring them home. The couple will not trade anything to the smile that the orphan children have in their eyes after the holiday. “When they become happy we get even happier” comments Bilezikçi family and adds that this boosts their joie de vivre more than any holiday possibly can.
They started their orphan-care work years ago. Some have graduated from college; some even got married from among the orphans they used to care for since their childhood.
Fatma’s Soup Kitchen
One night in Ramadan, Fatma says “I wish we could throw an iftar dinner for the needy in our neighbourhood” as they are sitting down with her husband Necat and father, Haji Raşit Ünal who immediately likes the idea and takes out all the money in his pocket to hand it over to his daughter for this purpose. Fatma right away goes and buys the cooking pots to cook for a big number of people. Next day they serve a big iftar dinner in front of their house. While she is recalling those days “Our first cooking pots were small” she says. “But the food would just not finish even though a sigfiniciantly huge number of poor and needy ate from it.”
Bilezikçi family does not remain alone in this journey of good that they set off. Those who witness their charity efforts come knock on their door to join in. So it keeps getting bigger and bigger. They start setting a long table in the apartment building`s backyard and all the neighbours are delighted by this situation. They work together to be a part of it and help each other out to put the food on the table. Some sets the tables, some slices the baguettes, some serves the meal. Fatma`s soupkitchen thus serves to unite the neighbours in doing good as well as serving food to the needy and poor.
Fatma serves the dishes she cooks for charity iftar in chinaware to entertain her guests in the best way. There is a section especially reserved for refugees in iftar. Everyday she serves the best food to the guests visiting this section and says that one feels much happier making people eat than eating. She comments that everyone should try and see how it feels to share. “Previously we would invite over our relatives and friends for iftar. But the real thing is to serve iftar to those in need. We should be aware of that,” she explains.
Mrs. Bilezikçi, who believes that “Doing good knows no colour, gender or race,” argues that doing good motivates people to do more good and keeps the doer livelier, healthier and more passionate about life.
The dinners served to the needy that helped the neighbours bond with each other while doing good are not confined to the month of Ramadan. Fatma Bilezikçi and her neighbours keep working for the needy outside Ramadan as well. On Mondays and Thursdays the pots keep boiling the broth for the needy. Those who need come and pick the food to take home or Mr. Bilezikçi delivers them in person going door to door. Because some of the needy people are bedridden or too old and weak to cook their food. Mrs. Bilezikçi comments, “We used to believe that everyone was well off in this neighbourhood. Nevertheless there are so many people who are in need. So this is how we found out” and regards this as an opportunity to get to know their own hood.
Mr. Bilezikçi is moved to tears as he tells how he used to bring food to an Alzheimer patient in his neighbourhood. The neighbour is too sick that he turns and asks him “What is the purpose of your visit sir?” after he just took the food from him.
The neoighbours, who come together for doing good, distribute the food that they cooked together to the needy. “That is how we learned to sacrifice, to be kind, to think the next person before we think of ourselves. We have tested and proved that being neighbours means helping out each other” Mrs. Bilezikçi says.
Mr. Bilezikçi tells that it felt like one of his own blood died when he found out an elderly person, to whom he used to bring food passed away. Then he finds consolation in the fact that he had not left him alone in the last stage of his life. “People come into your life and people leave it. Not everyone is able to hold their hands and get their blessings. We should approach everyone with kindness. And acts of kindness do not happen when you sit and wait but when you set off without putting it off anymore.”
Bilezikçi family added their list of charity work the purchase of house for the needy. Fatma Bilezikçi and her husband, who started off buying houses for them one by one, say that their line of charity is just expanding. As a way of financial support they would pay the electric bill or water bill of the families for whom they have not managed to buy a house. Bilezikçi couple that never thinks of quitting their charity work feel rewarded by the words of
“You put a smile on our face once we got to know you.”
Mrs. Bilezikçi is now raising funds to go to umrah with the mothers of the orphans whose biggest dream is to visit Mecca. To share the joy of seeing the House of Allah with them, setting foot on holy lands with them… She keeps dreaming and planning about this big event these days.
Bilezikçi family leads their lives by adding a new item to their line of charity everyday. They are being there for hundreds of families and being in their hearts and prayers in return. Their only concern is the answers of “What good shall I do today, with whom shall I share what I have that the other does not?