Michael – “We’re Human. It’s Not About Ethnicity”

There are a lot of different people in the world, but still we are cut from the same cloth. We’re people. We’re human. It’s not about ethnicity, even though the world sees it that way. But I don’t see it that way.”

It would have been easy for me to judge, profile or make assumptions to the intent of stranger now friend Michael. A mountain of a man, I met him as he sat ominously under the shade of a tree, his sheer stature taking a dominant section of city bench as he waited for his wife to conclude a doctor’s appointment in a nearby medical building.

Interviewing 1000s of strangers has taught me to see a world covered with diverse and inspired people. It’s been an experience for certain. One that has humbled me in ways never imagined. A social lesson of sorts, it is teaching me to make no assumptions about anyone. It’s a hard practice, one that I know I could not undertake without the example of the community of Operation-365. We are a movement of individuals who, every day, are looking outside of ourselves in a desire to know and extend empathy toward our neighbors. We are a diverse people who, together, are growing a real majority. Giving and sharing as we accept our similar want to be loved, to feel safe and be allowed to express and live our value system without the fear of being persecuted.

So it was with this subtext that I reached out to Michael as he relaxed in a shaded escape from the hot afternoon sun. No malice to hurt, no judgmental finger pointed or any agenda other than simply wanting to meet another human and find out who he was and what he had to share.

Michael was reserved, yet in a slightly held back caution, I saw an open mind.

For about 30 minutes we found a bonding peace as we talked beneath the continued pulse of smaller moving vehicles and over the occasional thunder of passing trucks. Michael’s opening advice to the world, “I’d tell everybody to treat each other like you want to be treated.

There are a lot of different people in the world, but still we are cut from the same cloth. We’re people. We’re human. It’s not about ethnicity, even though the world sees it that way. But I don’t see it that way.”

Shaking the ground a little, an eighteen-wheeler thunders by!

A brief pause and Michael picks up where he left off, “I think we’d live in a whole much better world if people would just take the time and hear what the next person’s got to say, and to pass something on that is good if they do have something to say.”

Michael speaks of his observations of society, “You have people that are here for one reason or another. For whatever they think they may stand for, or what they might do, or something like that. I find today that a lot of people are unapproachable. But still, there are a lot of people who are approachable.

I’m no individual to judge, but you can pretty much see the good from the bad, and sometimes I miss a call: The person that you think is bad, is not, and the person you think is good, is actually bad. It all depends on how well you get to know the individual and what they are going through.”

Therein the wisdom in Michael’s eyes was revealed. My take on what he was teaching, we need to at least be open in getting to know the people around us, not judging, and surely not attacking.

“It all depends on how well you get to know the individual and what they are going through,” Michael points out.

Perhaps in this he is suggesting that we can have no idea of what is truly inside a person at first glance. What appears as dismissible intolerance could actually be feelings of loss, despair or lowliness. Or, the grasping sound of ecstatic laughter could be a shroud to escape any range of self-issues. There is no absolute answer to knowing of any deep experience that any one of us is going through without as least looking at, and listening to, each other with compassionate and inquiring minds.

I’m not saying that we have to be saviors to the world, or victims of injustice in any form, just suggesting taking an extra second to govern our mind waves in regards to how we act or react to all we meet, or pass by, in our everyday living.

“People seem to be disconnected today” Michael observes, “and a lot of it has to do with technology.

You walk and you see a lot of young kids. They have headphones on and they’re really not paying attention to their surroundings. They are not looking up. They are looking down at their phone screens and texting.

To me it seems that if we keep heading in that direction we are going to fall out of touch with the real value of human socialness; and, if it keeps going like it is, people are just going to fall out of touch with each other completely.

People are not aware of their surroundings and I don’t think they really care. It’s all about right now. They are not looking into the future.

If this continues I don’t see a real good future for us. I hope things can change or get better, but I don’t know?

People don’t talk anymore. Really talk! You know, To try to see where each other is coming from?

The way I look at it, the Internet, the iPhones, the iPads— even with them, everyone is disconnected.”

Michael’s wife arrives from her doctor’s appointment and I am grateful for the time he has shared with me. I offer him my departing words. With a handshake, “You are not alone, my friend.”

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