Our days are filled with real and fake interactions. Online posts, real and fake news, frightening images, presidential non-proclamations. Terror. Hatred.
Before we begin our individual narratives, let’s take a moment to look at the whole picture. The city neighborhood with a simple walk to the park on a Sunday evening. What might one see? A creek swelling from a two-hours-past downpour, bubbling up with white rapids and ready to irrigate the constant green lawns that make Denver beautiful. A crooked, cracked path filled with walkers and cyclists and girls on scooters.
A pavilion that neither group reserved and yet they both share, the lilt of Spanish words rising into my memory, the Arabic floating past the wafts of hookah smoke from head-covered women. Both groups barbecue their versions of the perfect meat: pork loin on one side, halal beef on the other. In perfect harmony, they laugh and talk and provide a kind of peace one can only find surrounded by greenery.
Before we begin our individual narratives, let’s take a moment to walk with our families in this park. We continue on, hearing a dialect from an African country (as Ngozi Adichie would say, “non-American Blacks”) in the soccer field; an official game with a yellow-shirted ref and all; ages nine to thirty-nine, experts at passing and kneeing. Further along the rutty path, we see an African-American boy and girl racing their new bikes against each other, against the sunset, against the wind, as their too-tired mama tries to keep up fifty feet behind them. We see another version of Spanish with two girls in matching Sunday-best floral dresses, their father sidling alongside with what must be a silent infant in his top-notch stroller. Two white middle-aged women give us the questioning eye as they speed-walk in the opposite direction. A Middle-eastern male volleyball match reaches full pitch with three quick strokes as the wives sit on a 1970s park bench and watch their children drag their feet in puddles under the swings.
You and I? We can have it all: the setting western sun. The glorious scents of roasting meat and sweet tobacco. The raging creek. The tall pines and thick-as-moss grass. The summer Sunday.
It may have taken me ten years to convince my southern-Baptist-raised husband to open his eyes to a world that includes everyone, all races and colors and sexual orientations and belief systems, but with patience, persistence, and stories like this, he changed his narrative.
In a group messaging stream this afternoon, a colleague begged us to interpret her crazy cousin’s rant about protesters having their guns removed from their homes. She wanted verification of his facts, renunciation of his belief system, support for her own.
We responded. We researched. We proved him wrong.
But did we change his narrative?
He needs a picture, not a fact-check. He needs an image as bright as this one, in a park on a summer Sunday, where all the world’s a stage (and we are but players, thank you Shakespeare). A stage for acceptance, for peaceful coexistence, for every belief system that the world can hold… all trapped within one square mile. He needs to see that America is a quilt, not a melting pot. That we each fit our squares into its pattern, its ravenous waters, tall trees, sultry sunsets. That we belong here, all of us, intertwined for the betterment of humanity, for progress, for the future of our world.
With a kind smile, a gentle nod, a we’re-in-this-together comment, we can change the narrative. One person, one step, one sunset at a time.
Take my hand. Walk with me. And open your eyes.