Monday, November 17, 2008

A Whole New World

I had an experience yesterday that I can't stop thinking about. I honsetly am not sure WHAT to think of it, though.
I've lived a lot of years to have never had that kind of experience until now, and I'm just not sure how to feel about it.
Awed. Inspired. Scared. Really scared. Comforted. Angry (at myself). Shamed. Hopeful. Evangelical about thinking everyone should have the same experience at least once.
Suddenly my mind started going elsewhere with these thoughts, so I better get to the explanation...
So here's what happened. My darling daughter is addicted to swings. My handsome son loves to dress up in various costumes and play outside as a cowboy, robber, alien, superhero, pirate, or some combination of all of those. We thought it would be nice to go to one of the nice city parks instead of the decaying family park in the apartment complex. Sean got all dressed up in his costume, which today was some sort of cowboy bank robber business man, and off we went.
On a side note, I wish I had taken a picture so you could chuckle with me...cowboy hat, button-down maroon shirt, clip-on tie with bright orange/red/yellow flames, nice pants, and cowboy boots, with my backgammon game box as a briefcase.
We drove to our favorite park and found it filled up with softball games. Who knew that softball season in FL began in November...and was played on Sundays?!? We decided we should try a different park that might be less populated.
I had seen a park not far from our house that had lots of swings, so we headed that way. We drove past a soccer field filled with only hispanic players and on to the area of the park with the swings, that also happened to be the area with the basketball courts, where every player and onlooker was black. On a whole city block, we were the only white people around. And the other races were not "mixing".
I don't feel that I am prejudiced. The only neighbors that Sean and Sophie play with are black, and we love them. I just haven't had much exposure to being the minority. Ever. Growing up in small po-dunk town Michigan didn't afford me that opportunity. When minority races were around, it was always a mix of people/races/cultures. In Florida, there are apparently areas where it's not cool to mix. At least on their leisure time. Neighborhoods seem to be segregated. Sad, yet true.
Anyway, we get out of the car. We go to the playground (we did make Sean leave his toy gun behind in the car). I think it was kind of to prove to ourselves that we weren't scared and did belong, but I wonder how it looked to the others. We really didn't belong. I'm not sure we are welcome. I am now TOTALLY apprehensive. I am about the whitest person you'll ever meet, so obviously, we kinda stood out a little.
There were some children already playing on the equipment. And the first thing out of their little blessed mouths? "Wanna play?" "What's your name?" God bless the children. They don't care. They just want to meet new people and have some fun while their parents play their games.
We had a great time. Still I was nervous. Not because I was scared of others, but because I was scared of how they would perceive me. Was I stepping into their territory? Was it not good for us to walk in acting like we had every right to?
And here these children, Theresa, Lily, TayTay, Tayshara, KeKe, and Jevion just had the best time. Oh, and of course Sean and Sophie. It really was a nice park for kids! Chip pushed the merry-go-round, I pushed the swings - then we switched places. It was fun. The slides and the train were in there somewhere, too, but didn't require as much supervision!
I just wonder. If we all took the time to be the only one somewhere - the only white person, the only female, the only male, the only thirty-something, the only...whatever - would we feel as flippant about being the "majority"? Would we feel how it is in someone else's shoes and be more empathetic? I don't know. I don't know if I'll even repeat the experience (doesn't matter who you are, I'm not fond of my kids hearing those words or smelling those smells or seeing those, uhm, activities). And I'm kinda mad at myself even as I say that. But I just hope I keep the experience in my heart and realize that to many, I'm still the enemy. Maybe if I took more time to see life from other points of view, people would be more interested in mine...


Gracie said...

Keep mixing. Keep loving. There is no fear in that.
Although I don't think you name anything foreign, I wonder if as we journey toward the other (what is different, unknown, and even uncomfortable), we'll find that the journey so shapes us that we wouldn't want to miss out, and ultimately, that we really do have more in common than we are different?

Trevor said...

Two questions (maybe three, depending on how you count them):

1. Wanna borrow my "para-dime" shifter? (can you double clutch?)

2. What smells?!?

- Trev.

SeaSaw Mom said...

Smells I'm not supposed to know about but do because of my life on Mackinac. Cannibus.
And, thanks, but no thanks. I can't even single clutch! I will have to find an automatic "para-dime" shifter. ;-)

SeaSaw Mom said...

And, Gracie, yes. That's what I'm hoping. We all get too comfortable in our rut and it was nice to see what fun it could be in the "rough" (golf reference, not any other implied meaning!).

Lana Baker said...

My son, Tyler, went to high school in Mexico-long story-but once when we were there visiting him a circus was in town. It was a huge bigtop tent filled with the locals. We were the only white people in the group! We started to get into the wrong line for tickets and someone helped us. They also helped us get the attention of some of the food vendors walking through the crowd and helped interpret some of the business/money transactions(along with Tyler who is fluent). I was struck by how helpful, kind, welcoming we were treated. I made a mental note to self after that experience to make a greater effort to extend a friendly hand when faced with diversity. You're right, doors to friendship and understanding just start flying open when you do this!! And you're right~kids just do it naturally. Adults, take note!