Ponder the number of times you have encountered a stranger looking for help and have, at best shaken your head, politely refused or have been mean to her or him. Or the number of times a stranger has asked you for something and you’ve ignored her or him and refused to help.
I mean strangers you do not identify with, strangers who are not recognizable family.
As I travel across the country I think of the multitude of times I’ve encountered these strangers and have received help from them, easily, openly, and most often freely.
How many times have you been in a place where you’ve known no one and yet have received the help of such a stranger.
I feel truly fortunate – all the people I’ve met who have decided to help me out, who could have decided to refuse, who could have even decided to attempt to harm me instead of helping – but they’ve helped, I am grateful for them.
And then I think, maybe it is not fortune but maybe this is the case for most people – maybe most people receive the kindness of strangers on occasions but maybe most people are so afraid to venture out of their own little ‘safe’ worlds to see who strangers really are and give strangers the chance to decide to be helpful.
I know I have white skin going for me as I travel this country. I also know when I travel with someone who is African American, we are treated very differently by white people –but also receive help from these white strangers.
So again, I have to ask us to ask ourselves, is it our personal EXPERIENCE with strangers that has led us to be so afraid of each other, or is it our personal experience with the FEAR of strangers, and not the strangers themselves?
I do not ask this naively, I am in full knowledge of the very real threat and violence of sexism, misogyny, racism, homophobia – but somehow, this violence has been subjugated when I’ve met the strangers who have offered their kindness and assistance along the road.
Of the many strangers who have helped me on this trip, there is one, a man who contacted me over the internet to bring a treasure of his from California to D.C., where he now lives.
Until I arrived in D.C. we had never met in person, but yet through emails & calls, he offered his assistance all along the way as he kept track of my challenges traveling across the country in extreme weather conditions.
He offered his support as I traveled on many levels: did I need help with money, with places to stay, people to count on - his friends and relatives across the country – and when I finally burst into D.C., he found out I suddenly needed a place to park my truck and worked hard on finding a place for me to park my truck, including his own home!
When we met for the first time, I found out he is white, not homosexual, and his generosity extended monetarily as well: he gave me a huge tip for bringing his treasure across the country!
I am so very grateful for this fellow and his openness and willingness to offer his help to a stranger.