What a difference four years makes!


Far away from civilization -it seems: A place that brings a peace I cannot describe nor comprehend; a peace that I've known not of before. Far away from my countrymen, where I dwell not only as the darkest skinned human, but as the only one of my ethnicity for miles. This place takes the "Cheers" theme song to a whole new level. A locale where the grocery store will start supplying food items they weren't originally supplying, just to accommodate your exotic diet. Where your senior citizen neighbor brings out his shovel to make sure you drive safely out of your driveway. Where your neighbors mow your lawn when you are away. Where the knock on your door is usually someone offering a kind gesture even as simple as, (but much appreciated) offering to rid your yard of the fall leaves. A place that replenishes because much more is being poured into you than taken out. I've come to know a place where the police are more concerned about your well-being than making an arrest or shooting you do death! 
I think about the rainbow color of friends that take the time to call me, message me frantically anticipating my visit or return to them. I think about how I want to abandon ship after our late night conversations, whatsApp/ text messages....just to see them, hug them, see their smiles, feel their love again.
I think about Monaca, PA where I got overwhelmed with welcome and love. It seemed atypical that on the day of my first visit, I was sitting by a camp fire with a large group of people that didn't look like me but felt like family I had known for years. A few days into my visit, my name would be called out a couple of times by passengers in a car driving by as I walked on the street. They'd wave as though they'd just seen a long-lost childhood friend!

I am reminded of numerous moments where I excitedly pranced the streets of "foreign" countries; (color) blindly interacting with the locals or other "foreigners." Where I inadvertently neglect to think about the color of my skin, or that of the people I am communing with because that which we have in common surpasses our differences. Where the only thing that might remind me I'm in a foreign land is the language barrier; even then our humanity transcends those boundaries. 

I think about how just the past few weeks 90% of my business and social interactions have been with people whose skin color or country of origin is different from mine; but how we got so engrossed in tasks and pleasantries that we never recounted our distinctive racial backgrounds or nationalities. My experience is not meant to diminish the anguish of any individual anywhere in the world or take away from what my American brothers and sisters continue to experience at the name of prejudice; or what my French family is going through right now. And by no means am I implying that we live in a world of butterflies and unicorns. In fact, I am very much aware of white privilege, existing bureaucracies, prejudices from all races, colorism, sexism, religious tension, etc. However, just like I have done with the negative people, the turbulent lover, the boring date, the annoying relative, the unbecoming acquaintance, I've chosen (right or wrong) to trump them and for a moment focus on all the overwhelming good. 

So, I am aware that by the grace of God I have for the most part been sheltered from the brazen racism. I do realize that my general experience might be the exception and not the rule. I am aware there is way too much evil (racism in this instance) in life, but I would like to limit my consumption on social media, my personal interactions and my intellectual ingestion. I understand, the opinions, the outrage, but will not be subjected to the consistent outright hateful speech and prejudice undertones! 
For one who is particularly unobtrusive and values my privacy, I chose to use social medial for various reasons. For me, social media is a platform I chose to use in a positive manner: to build and not tear down, to encourage the hurting, to speak life, to enlighten, and yes, promote my business ventures; but in many aspects it is a form of escapism. Where I connect with loved ones miles and oceans away.  A place for the occasional light-hearted vent or humor even. 

While I feel a need to expunge many around me, am I solving anything? How about a chance to engage, to dialogue through the differences, the pain, the misunderstandings? We are not loving our children well when we pass on the message of prejudice and hatred. We are not loving ourselves at all. When we hate, we are depriving ourselves of how BIG life can be when we open up. Some of my best experiences in life have been brought on by people that don't look like me, talk like me, have different socio-economic backgrounds; people that may never give me anything material, but something far better. Try it, you just might get overwhelmed by peace and your heart may surprisingly, but pleasantly be captured by love!