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by Larry James
Life teaches (misleads) us to make unknowing assumptions about one another based on passing impressions. We all do it, dont we?
Friends of mine who live outside the city often ask me with knowing looks about safety issues in my inner city neighborhood. My answers about the reality of life in the ‘hood usually surprise them. One of the main reasons I seldom feel much danger has to do with the fact that I know so many people around me. Personal knowledge sends fear scurrying harmlessly away.
We make all sorts of assumptions about people based on appearances. Americans continue to give away far too much to impressions shaped and driven by assumptions about race and class.
Recently, I got smacked in the face with this fact. I stood at a gas pump filling my car at the corner station a few blocks from my house. An energetic man, who looked as if he lived on the street, walked across the driveway on his way inside the stations little store.
I spoke to him, extending the usual neighborhood greeting, Hows it goin?
Goin okay, man! he replied before his follow-up, How you doin?
Im hanging in, thanks, I responded.
Hope you have a good day, he wrapped up before going in the store.
You too, I said.
Then he did an unusual thing. He stopped, wheeled around and pointed his finger at me and said, You dont believe it, but I really do hope you have a good day!
He answered with a smile and the endorsement of his pointing finger, There you go, brother. I believe you!
Then, he was gone going in and coming out of the store quickly.
Our exchange has been with me all week. Two guys meeting at the corner store. One most likely homeless. One incapable of understanding that reality. One black. One white. In so many ways, worlds apart.
Somehow though we were able to break through the silly assumptions in a very refreshing and authentic way. Both of us understood our accomplishment. Both of us wanted it. Both of us connected—person-to-person. The experience has carried me all week.
I just hope my new friend has enjoyed a very good week. Ill be looking for him Saturday down at the station.
Author: Larry James
Publication Date: June 28, 2002
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