Familiarity Breeds Acceptance

Waiting to Vote

Waiting to Vote on Election Day

This week more than any other time since 9/11, I’m so grateful that I live in New York where I am forced to rub up against people who are not like me. On the subway, I sit next to people of all ages and skin colors and shapes. In the streets, I see people in wheelchairs, joyful children, panhandlers down on their luck, women in heels I couldn’t wear for half a block, and gray haired women on bikes weaving their way in and out of traffic. I say hello to the homeless man and meet his eye even though I don’t always drop money into his paper cup. I offer my subway seat to a father with a baby strapped to his front, and he declines with a grin.  With my foot, I hold the elevator door for an older woman using a cane and in return, with an eye on my packages, she pushes the button for my floor.

While I wear a wide-brimmed straw hat in summer and earmuffs in the winter, they sport yarmulkes and fezzes and bike helmets and hijabs and their hair might be dyed all colors of the rainbow or they may have shaved it all or just half of it off. When I am wearing four layers against the cold, I can admire the younger generation’s bare tattooed skin or their muscular legs protruding from tight leggings or baggy shorts.

Do I know these people personally? No. Do they make me angry? Yes, when I’m groped in the subway or someone cuts in front of me in a line or steals my wallet when I’m not watching my purse. Do they scare me? Sometimes…when a person breaks into an angry harangue against the world in the middle of the sidewalk or rattles me with her disconnected stare in my subway car. Do they make me smile? Often, when they are dressed in wild costumes or carry a parrot on their shoulder or push a dog in a baby stroller. Do they make me curious? Yes, when I can’t see what book they’re reading or when they are speaking a foreign language I don’t recognize or when they stop me on the street to ask me to contribute to a cause.

But, like these people or not, I can’t separate myself from them by getting in a car or staying in my neighborhood. Every time, I step on the bus or stride down the sidewalk to do an errand, I am in community with a slice of the whole world, and for that experience, I am deeply grateful.

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  1. What do you mean by “people that are not like me”…?just asking 🙂

    • Miranda, I’m a white, older middle aged woman who works from home, doesn’t need to commute, and who has resources meaning shelter and food safety. I’m a very lucky human being and in the city, I see many who are much less fortunate, and of course, some who are richer although I don’t necessarily equate money with good fortune…it certainly helps but doesn’t solve all the problems. Hope that makes answers your question.