I was in NYC recently with my daughter approaching a breakfast buffet at our hotel, and my eyes spotted a man with biceps the size of Rhode Island and New Hampshire, respectively. He was covered in tattoos, and his skin was black. Big and scary. Mean too, I thought. Wanting to protect my daughter, I sized him up as someone to steer clear of. That pre-judging (pre-judice) was instant, no hesitation or self-examination.
But fate would have it he wound up behind us in the buffet line, and I had a chance to either stay separate and uncomfortable or try something out of my comfort zone.
Being around my daughter sometimes inspires me to try new things, to choose adventure over the status quo. I turned around and smiled, asking: “So how many hours a week do you work out? He broke out into his own friendly smile. “Four to six hours, seven days a week. The gym is my second home”, he said.
His eyes sparkled with pride, and I could see an innocent boy peering out through his macho frame.
Suddenly I saw discipline instead of threat when I looked at him. SuddenlyI was curious, he was harmless, and I battered him with questions, friendly firing away while he piled on the protein for breakfast.
It turned out that he was in NY for some kind of body building contest. I asked him what his hopes and goals were and he got even more enthusiastic and childlike. “If I win here I get to go to Vegas and compete in the nationals.” “And then what?” I asked. “The prize for that one is ten thousand dollars.” “And then what?” I kept asking.
He was loving the attention, and shared his bigger dreams of helping out his family financially, moving more of his kin to the United States, and starting a foundation for underprivileged kids.
It seemed that the biggest muscle in this young man’s body was his heart.
And to think, I almost didn’t strike up a conversation. I was so close to business as usual, letting fear stifle my curiosity, building walls instead of bridges. So glad I chose differently. So glad my daughter was there, looking over my shoulder, taking it all in.
These last few weeks a number of innocent people, policeman and civilians, got shot and killed because of fear. Call it racism, prejudice, hate, ignorance, mental illness, apathy, whatever the labels, its all different variations and flavors of the same stuff: Fear.
It’s very tempting to feel powerless about it all.
But I like to think that every day you and I make a multitude of little decisions that contribute either to more prejudice on this planet, or to it’s eventual demise. Fear or love. Every moment. Always at choice, we are. Never powerless.
Either we’re helping Donald Trump build walls, or we are choosing something else.
Every day there are moments available like the conversation I had with the big, beautiful black man. They can happen ever day, these moments when we make the decision to be the change we wish to see in the world.
The children, whether any are biologically yours or not, are looking over your shoulder, waiting to see what your choice is. We are all creating their future.