Maybe we're more similar than what we believe. Maybe we just have to look up, pay attention, and be amazed.
Prayer rug in hand, small boy running behind to say goodbye one last time, dark skin, small beard, deep eyes. I shared a cab with a Muslim Rohingya refugee from Myanmar on the way to the Denver airport. We knew the same people- he grew up in a camp in Bangladesh. He told me about the importance of education for his people. He was passionate and kind.
All my domestic flights were cancelled and delayed causing the high probability of missing my international flight. Dedric, an African-American male with Southwest Air, rebooked me when he saw my eyes well up before I could embarrass myself by accidentally crying.
In Jakarta, two elderly Muslim women in their long niqabs, had a faulty luggage cart with a wheel that refused to turn. Struggling to make hairpin turns in the security line with their heavy bags, I picked up the front end and redirected it in my short overalls, bare skin, and long uncovered hair. They smiled at me and laughed and nodded with gratitude.
Waiting for our flight to Bali, a crew of young Indonesian men began to sit on the floor beside us as all the chairs were taken. They started to sneak selfies with my friend and I as the background, so I started posing for them. Soon they all wanted a picture with us, but to seal the bargain we made them take a selfie with us in return. Sitting on the airport floor, they shared chocolate cake amongst themselves and passed it to us as a thank you for the photos.
The Muslim woman with her head asleep on her husband's shoulder. He kisses the top of her beautiful bright hijab.
Two Indian men holding hands in line on the plane. I began to wonder if it was a sign of brotherly love or a deeper affection. In the end, they were sharing what we all desire.
Next to me in Ubud, the motorbike's brakes were bad. On a steep hill the young Balinese man was trying so hard to stop before colliding with the car in front. His front wheel bumper barely tapped the car bumper in front of us as he sighed with relief. We made eye contact as I gave him the "I saw that whole thing" smile. He threw his head back and laughed joyously.
In Indonesia, the stories and narratives I had been told, either blatantly or inadvertently by culture, media, or personal history, about people different than me were blaring at full volume. I was also immensely aware of the story they had most likely been told or believed about me. As people hopefully seeking understanding and friendship, we have to let others rewrite their stories in our minds- toss the preconceived notions and misguided narratives to the side.
Maybe we're more similar than what be believe. Maybe we just have to look up, pay attention, and be amazed.