26 Jul Finding Our Humanity Via Youtube
Waiting for the plumber while sitting in our new flat in Giza, I did like most of us do, I started to scan YouTube for something interesting.
Of course, in these times we are living in, there were countless videos about the latest news, about the who tweeted what, who said what, all telling a dark tale of how polarized our world is. There too was a recent news report of the great loss of migrants traversing the seas for freedom off the coast of Libya. Another telling the tale of the horrors experienced by families trying to escape even greater horrors from their own countries into my former home. Sure too, there were the videos speaking to those who fear ‘others’ seeking a better life.
I do try to keep up with what’s going in the world, but I also try hard to limit their exposure to my energy, protecting it as much as possible from this darkness.
Skipping these, I was intrigued by a new video announcing a movie, “A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood.” In case you didn’t know, Tom Hanks is starring in a movie about American icon, Mr. Rogers.
As I watched the trailer for this movie, I was moved to tears, recalling the kindness and goodness of this soul and how it forever impacted my childhood. I as a little farm girl from Indiana, joined generations of millions of American children, tuning in each day for this man’s gentle, and loving way of teaching us to be the best we could be as humans, not just as Americans.
YouTube likes to follow up one video with something similar, and so I learned from another video that there too is a new documentary coming out about the man. In this video, the news show described exactly what the tears streaming down my face, and the pang in my heart were feeling from the previous video…that in these divisive times, the wisdom and goodness, wise counsel and dare I say, leadership in this, of Mr. Rogers are more needed than ever before!
As there are, I believe, no coincidences, the next video that came was a clip from a recent America’s Got Talent. This Golden Buzzer moment was for a dance-acrobat team from the slums of Mumbai, India. They were incredible – like Cirque De Soleil without wires or nets!
Of course their story was a powerful one of how they came from hard lives in Mumbai’s slums, of losing a team member due to injuries sustained while practicing, and their performance was truly powerful.
But it was in the face of their leader, the speaker for the group, that all that went away. Here in this young man, were the soulful eyes, joyous smile, and beaming spirit of my Mostafa. And as I looked at the rest of the group, I began to see the faces of so many lovely people of all different cultures I’ve had the privilege to really know in my travels.
It was here that my heart literally broke in half, in the contrast of just these few moments…the hate, the fear, the loss of life, the divisiveness of the world, and the beauty and kindness of humanity, of the unifying desire for joy and happiness, fulfillment of dreams.
Travel is very different than taking a vacation abroad. True travel takes you into other cultures, into other experiences. It breaks down barriers unlike anything I’ve ever known or researched. It changes peoples hearts and minds. It opens the doors to new ideals, and compels us to become our best selves.
When one begins to travel, I’ve found among most expats that its natural to seek out the things that are familiar from where you left. There is a comfort there. Are there foods you recognize? Are there shoppes that are similar to your faves back home?
But as you continue to travel, you find that the greatest comfort of all is in finding the commonalities of all peoples, from all backgrounds and all cultures; the greatest comfort is in finding what it means to be human.
I remember years ago watching the movie Independence Day. I was so struck by this movie. Of sure, Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum and the rest of the cast were great, and it was a blockbuster action-packed hit. But that wasn’t why this movie had such an impact on me.
No, it was at the end, when all seemed lost, that the world came together to defeat the aliens.
Afterward, I remember feeling guilty for silently wishing for something great and powerful that would, like those aliens invading earth in the movie, unite us as a one singular people. Not of country, of color, of race or religion, but just as humans.
And then September 11, 2001 happened.
Like all of us, I had so many mixed emotions that day. Fear, anger and hurt came to the forefront as I watched in horror that day as all the terrible events unfolded before our eyes. I remember looking up in the sky above Indianapolis, the crossroads of America’s roads and skies, and seeing no checkerboard criss-crossing from vapor trails of jets.
But what I most remember that day, was when that afternoon, without anyone organizing it, without a word or a Tweet or a viral post, everyday people from all walks of life gathered at Monument Circle in downtown Indy to hold hands in silence. Lawyers in $300 suits holding hands with garbage men, next to ladies from department store makeup counters, next to the daily drunks from nearby bars, and on and on.
It was powerful and moving. I cried that day a bucket of tears. Yes, of course for what was happening to our country and to the world, but also in the joy of witnessing this coming together.
For days afterwards, there were stories of unity that rang across the world’s news. A small town in Canada taking in hundreds of stranded air travelers. Newspaper editors around the world giving testimony for what was good about the people of the United States, and the countless billions who stood those days in unity against any evil upon another.
My heart hungers for this unity. My soul aches for this togetherness. I yearn for this again.
So today, as I wait STILL for the plumber, I can’t help but share with you what I’ve learned from my travels, that deep down we ALL yearn for this.
For in my travels, I’ve come to know the faces of many peoples and cultures and they all, I have relished in discovering, yearn for the same thing. In the faces of these souls, I’ve come to know the kindness and goodness Mr. Rogers sang everyday to us about.
In the laughs, in the smiles, in the heartaches and the pains of these souls, I’ve come to know that what unites us all are these yes basic, but deeply vital, aspects of being human. We all want better for our children. We all want to grow and be better ourselves. We all want to be seen and to be heard. And most of all, we all want to be loved.
So it is with this simple refrain from my childhood, turned into a statement for all, a mantra for all…”Let’s all be good neighbors.”
Let’s return to being good neighbors, to being good to each other. Let’s start to share our cups of sugar, our helping hands, our shoulder to cry on or to lean on. Let’s let down our fences and gates, and instead open our hearts and minds. Let’s return to these basics that we all yearn for, letting down our fears, and picking up our hearts for the love of another human who yearns for the same as we do. Let’s all be as one, as humans.
You don’t have to solve the world’s problems, but rather just in your own heart and mind. Before projecting fears on another, take a chance and open a hand. It starts here. One hand to another. One act of kindness to another. One brave voice standing with another. One heart hearing another.
It just takes a deep breath in and deep breath out, realizing that the ‘who’ you fear for whatever reasons, really deep down, like all peoples, wants the same things as you. Lead from this place, lead from your heart and it will lead you to where we all want to be…to be together as good neighbors in this world of being human.
“Won’t you be our neighbor?”