On the Western front of the Famous Route 66 lies the California coastline. Route 66. 2448 miles of ever-changing pavement. Asphalt, concrete and dirt that, since 1926, has reigned strong as a most prolific icon. A starting / stopping point (all depends on the direction of your travel) for a journey of grand proportion. At it Westward end. Standing as a pinnacle marker for an adventure completed. Subtle and welcoming above the Santa Monica pier A destination not only famous for its fun in the sun allure, but for its magnetism as being one of the greatest melting pots of ethnic and cultural diversity in all of Southern California: Santa Monica 66, End of the Trail.
I walked the pier, and as expected, I was overwhelmed.
Men, women, couples and families of every age, faith, ethnicity and language scurried around in a bliss of summer fun. Restaurants, games, rides, storefronts and consumption of colorful food were common agenda’s.
Yet, amidst the storm of activity I saw a united people. A macro view of what things could be. What thing should be. So I stood quite. An unidentified figure in the sea of thunderous sound and movement. Open, observing and listening.
Thousands of individual people. Thousands of stories. Thousands of smiles and thousands of brief moments where stranger was interacting with stranger. In basic terms, a global society that was slammed together in a confined area. That in itself could bring the worst out of any situation. But that day it did not. So many were obviously on vacation or an escape of some type or another.. I was sure of that.
I had to ask myself, why did it take leisure to break down the barriers we all put up?
I was blank for a response. It was beyond me to figure. Maybe it was stress relief, or living out a fantasy. Perhaps the kindness was evoked by the overwhelming count of activities or, perhaps, by the distance from the expectations of home communities. But whatever it was, why do we find it happening to a lesser occurrence in our everyday lives?
Like I said, I was blank for a response. The reason escaped me.
So I meandered to the end of the pier. Still looking. Still pausing. Still listening for any answer to my self-reflection.
I began to find myself on a sensory overload. Not for fear, not by distraction, and surely not through any self-cast profiling. But driven by my minds heavy questing to know my neighbors. At that moment, amidst the deafening sound of diversity, it screamed like an internal voice, “I want to know who these people are!”
I was like a restlessness to understand. A powerful want to know the names, the stories and the wisdom of all those who were surrounding me that day. An impossible task for any one man to accomplish. But a task, that united, is one we can mirror as a whole. It was with that thought pouring like an unstoppable river into my brain I explored the vastness of the faces that passed on every side of me.
Absolutely, there was no way I could befriend all on the pier. That would have not only be a pompous presumption, but a superhuman feat far beyond my ability. But what I could do was open my mind and heart to an awareness of the humanity that I so casually strolled by me that day. In that, I challenged myself to be receptive to whatever, or whomever did engage with.
It’s a funny thing how at times the Universe listens to us. The louder the crowd got, the more silent my thoughts became, and at the instant of my deepest release to the challenge to do so, I heard the sound of laughter growing, “Will you take our photo?” crept through the laughs.
I focused my attention, and before me was standing two remarkable individuals, Kanwarpal and his brother-in-law Amandeep. I was instantly smitten by their joy. Simply, something about them was enlightening.
Kanwarpal had two points to share in regards to living a fulfilled life, and by the happiness the glowed from him, it was apparent that he lived by his words.
“Don’t ever do anything that causes you to lose your smile, and don’t ever regret anytime in your life. Anything that even once made you smile.”
Amandeep added his take, “’Don’t take anything for granted. Don’t observe a person for what you see. The phrase, ‘Don’t judge a person by their cover.’ Realize and recognize everyone else.’”
The fact alone that Kanwarpal and Amandeep were wearing turbans and beards would have been a cause for many to profile. The fact was that they were together on a touring excursion for Amandeep, whom was about to marry Kanawarpal’s sister. That was why they were on the pier.
Neither were from any radical cell, or had any agenda other than to love their neighbors. A view that was at the very core of the value system that they adhered. So much so that the main direction of their lives was working with youth; something that both of these fine men dedicated much of their time.
Further both were American citizens, engaging with the society that surrounded them and bottom line, were wonderful contributors to the world.
Amandeep hailed from California and Kanwarpal was visiting from Maryland, both shared their spiritual outlook with me. “We are Sikh and believe we all share a common God, We have a saying Ik Onkar (Gurmukhi), meaning God is one.” Amandeep explained. “It does not matter what color your skin is, we are all in one place, any religion.
We should live life to the fullest, treat other people fairly, be fearful of God, and know that everybody is going to the same place.
As Sikh’s, we make sure our arms and our hands are always open to everyone else.
That’s why we are here.”
“We are not from any radical group, our turbans and our beards are like uniforms. Only they are not like the uniforms of command. They are to let people know of our beliefs and a symbol of our respect and of our values. When you see us, you know we are here to help each other and others, not to hurt one another.”
Amandeep talked of the future, “90% of the time whatever you hear on the news you have to take it with a grain of salt.
I’m hoping that everybody starts taking a healthier approach to life; that we start looking not only within ourselves, but overall, towards our community. Lending a hand where we can. Making sure that we are physically fit, so that the overall diseases as far as diabetes, cardio vascular and all that, they decrease. But at the same time looking to make the Earth a more pleasant place to stay. Cutting down on the smog and everything else. Because we’re still young we want to make sure that our planet is safe for our kids and our grand kids and their kids. That’s what I’m hoping for. Will that every happen within our lifetime. I hope so.”
Kanwarpal looked ahead, “We are going to become more aware. Right now too many are about me, I’m doing this, this is about me. That is going to start approaching to we and our. Technology helps to that point. But also I see that everyone is on they’re mobile phones and Facebook and Twitter. It’s just a phase. It is only doing its part to get people connected around the world. But I think that is going to fall down and then the real synergy is going to start-up.”
I know now why the noise was broken by the sound of their laughter, and even though I met my new friends, Amandeep and Kanwarpal, through the invite of a smile, light-minded they were not. For on the end of a busy tourist pier, and within the endless movement of humanity in vacation mode, I found a temple of sorts.
A temple not of brick and mortar construct, but a sanctuary of worship to a higher power. Non-the-less; a power that through the unconditional friendship of two kind gentleman had transformed my afternoon.
Who would have ever conceived that in the fast pace of amusement park ambience that the quietest of subjects could be discussed?
We are truly all in this thing together, and in the word of two new friends, met on a sunny vacation day, offered up a great and simple wisdom, To quote, Ik Onkar (Gurmukhi).