We’re all feeling uneasy with the discord in our public life. I know I am. Yoga classes seem fuller as one indicator. Are folks just recommitting to the physical practice in the new year or are they looking for more inner resolve? Breathing deeply and responding wholeheartedly to the differences within our community and our nation takes guts. It’s uncomfortable. But I do believe that respect is the bedrock of relationships and sometimes moving beyond your zone of comfort can lead us to unexpected moments of connection.
I had such an experience in New York City right after the election.
I was waiting for a small elevator at the Manhattan Graphics Center to take me to the street. The door opened and there were three African-American men inside; I asked if they were going down; they were and I stepped inside. One asked about the studio. I said it was a special place.
Another asked if I were a client and I said just a visitor and then he noted my accent and asked where I was from. Alabama I said. Then, he said something like, this is my colored brother and this is my colored brother and I'm a colored brother, and as we were exiting he said, the Scottsboro boys. I must have looked surprised or unsure or something (I'm quite transparent).
I said, I hope you are not judging me based on being from Alabama. And, as we walked outside, he said, I just like to say that to Caucasians from the south to see where you stand. And I said, I stand on your side. He held up his hand and we high fived.
He asked if he could walk with me and I said, sure. He grew up in eastern North Carolina in a small town named Windsor but is a New Yorker now. I told him my dad grew up all over eastern North Carolina and mentioned a few towns. He said since Trump's election the Klan was planning to march near his home. I said with dismay, Seriously? We talked about how North Carolina is schizophrenic (my word) and always has been mentioning Jesse Helms. He said it went back much farther to the Civil War; NC was the first to secede and the first to come back to the union. He mentioned that the highest rate of interracial marriages were in NC. I responded that I had read about that in the Birmingham News a few years back regarding the South. He said perhaps it was white women getting back at their families. I replied maybe it’s just love.
We came to the end of a block and he asked my name. I told him and he told me his name He said he hoped he had not offended me. I said no and we shook hands and went our separate ways. Wow. I wonder if he is thinking about this encounter between strangers as much as I am.