I shared a street corner with a woman today. She was walking from Starbucks and we stopped to cross the street. She arrived there first and pressed the crosswalk button. I arrived next and said, "Good Morning."
She ignored me.
There's a number of reasons why she could be ignoring me. She could be my imagination's creation. Maybe she's not having a good morning, or she didn't see or hear me. Perhaps my appearance or the situation frightened her. It was ten AM, very sunny, on a lightly busy intersection. She's white, maybe thirty, and I'm white, 55. I have some facial hair and I was neatly dressed, with a laptop case strapped over my shoulder. Perhaps she saw my neatness or my laptop or my whiteness or maleness as a threat. Maybe she's been taught and conditioned, don't talk to strangers or don't talk to men. Maybe she didn't understand English. Perhaps she's had bad experiences with talking to strangers or she's a nervous, anxious person.
I walked on, consoling herself that it's her loss. Saying hello to others, exchanging a friendly greeting, can do wonders to expand your bubble.
Think of George Zimmerman, 28, and Trayvon Martin, 17. Perhaps if the'd looked at each and said, "Hello," maybe that wouldn't have happened.
I don't know. George didn't seem to be in a friendly mood. Trayvon was walking around his neighborhood, talking on his cell phone, and looked like, to George, that he was up to no good. George was suspicious of a person walking around his neighborhood. Ironically, nobody is suspicious of George, who drives around the same neighborhood, talking on the phone, although after meeting and talking with George, some neighbors no longer walk around outside.
Especially if they're black people. George, while talking to his black neighbors, told them to be on the lookout for black strangers in the neighborhood. Even while realizing the irony, the black neighbors passed on the message, beware of black strangers. As they related this after George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin with a gunshot, the woman lowered her head and cried. I can only imagine how painful the situation felt for her. She's expecting a child, and as she has said, "That could be my child out there. I'm afraid to let my child walk around because he's black."
Imagine the fear, sadness and pain.
We all carry baggage. We create some of it, and deal with it in different ways. In a reverse flip, a friend visited Palm Springs last week. She rented and stayed in a home with her husband.
The home was in a sub-division planned and begun when the future looked so bright, you have to wear shades. These days, there's an unused swimming pool, a number of built houses that are sparsely lived in, and a number of cement pads on lots awaiting their homes. Dust swirls and drifts.
But the funny thing are the people living there. Whenever they see someone else, they wave. My friend said the waves are friendly and enthusiastic, and everyone does it. Maybe she and her husband look like other people and it's mistaken identity. I like to think that instead of treating each other as strangers, the people are being friendly.
That's always one choice, among many. It's up to you what you do with your baggage, but the consequences can be far reaching.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com