Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The other day, the other guy

Honestly, this picture has it all.
A bike, a sidecar, a tiny house, a hipster, a Keeshond!
You're welcome. 

This past Sunday was gorgeous for a late February day: blue sky, sun shining, not cold. We drove to my in law's house, which is about an hour away and we take a scenic US Route that winds through small towns and gentle hills and valleys. I mean, I live in the armpit, I mean HEARTLAND of America. The great flyover state of Ohio. So trust me. It's a pretty drive.

Of course all the motorcycle riders were out as well and I had the fortune to be right behind a gentleman out for a ride. He was in no hurry to get wherever he was going, and for once in my whole life ever, neither was I. His happiness with traveling at the posted speed limit was fast enough for me too. And from my vantage point, I saw all the times he extended his left hand down at his side, in the rider's wave, to each passing cyclist.

He passed women, men, groups, individuals, people in jean jackets, people in leather jackets. Some had helmets on, some didn't. Some had close haircuts, some had long hair. Every single person extended the sidelong wave in return. They had an unspoken community.

At some point along the drive, I remembered a time I was on a friend's boat, spending the day on the Ohio River. Boaters have this wave as well. You just don't pass a boat on the river without waving. And my friend looked at me and said, "You know half these people would spit on each other sooner than they'd help each other....except out here on the river. Get us all in boats and we'll do whatever it takes to help each other out."

So here we all are. We're strangers. We're foreigners. We're "us" versus "them" all day every day. We're divided, and we're nasty in tone and in feeling. We have all the answers and "they" are the problems, the enemy: poor people, Muslims, Jews, Evangelical Christians, liberals, conservatives, racists, system suckers.....unless we're on a boat or a bike. Unless we're both driving Jeeps. Unless we're both at the same concert. Unless we both drink the same soda.

It takes so little for people to find common humanity - we're hardwired for it! We look for patterns and similarities all the time, on a fundamentally biological level. And so when we see someone who shares even the smallest hobby or interest as us, we identify with one another, rather than divide each other. We wave....and smile....and offer kindness.

I spent the last part of our drive wondering why it's so difficult to assume the similarities. Why do we automatically assume a defensive stance? Was humanity always this way? Because the moment we see a connection, however small, our walls come down and we see each other for the brothers and sisters we are.

It seems to me like there are better assumptions we should all be making about each other. And maybe it's naive to think it, but I don't think anyone would be hurt by supposing that the stranger has more in common with themselves than differences. Ultimately, as my man the Dalai Lama says, every being wants to be happy and seeks fulfillment. How is that not enough of a commonality to bring us together, and offer each other that gentle sidelong wave as we pass?

Photo Credit: juergvollmer via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: oregon ducatisti via Compfight cc

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