The events I talk about below are as different as night and day.
They point to the reality that stereotyping people isn’t the way to go.
Late One Summer:
I’m standing on a street corner in an Orthodox neighborhood talking on my cell phone. A guy in his black suit walks by and turns to look at me:
“Have a Great Day Miss–it’s a beautiful morning–a Great Day to you!” He smiled.
“Have a great day too!” I smiled back and marveled at the guy’s sunny good humor to want to welcome an outsider like me.
This stands in contrast to 15 years ago. In an Orthodox neighborhood I’m closing a building and the last guy is leaving. It’s another summer and he’s wearing his black suit too.
“Are you Jewish?” he asked me. “No.” “So you’re Italian.” He figured it out. “Yes.”
“Well you don’t hate us yet you don’t like us,” he continued.
I hadn’t ever met this guy before in my life and within five minutes he was accusing me of being anti-Semitic. I always remembered this.
It reminded me of the Depeche Mode song “People Are People” from the 1980s. Their lead singer crooned that he didn’t understand what could make a man hate another man.
To stereotype another person is not something I want to do. It would be like changing my eyes from brown to blue–impossible.
As an author I’m entranced with difference–with the passions and peculiarities of human beings that make good characters in a book as well as in real life.
Days later “It’s a beautiful morning” kept ringing out in my head. I can see that cheerful man even now telling me: “Have a great day miss!”
I urge readers to understand that hate is not the way to go–violence is not the way to go–killing is not the way to go. Not even in response to hate racism or any other stigma.
Does it really feel good to simmer in a stew of anger? Is that how we should live our lives–hating and attacking each other?
As a writer if I were going to write an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times I know what I’d write about: compassionate people making a difference.
In this life I know who impresses me more: the guy with a heart as big as the Montana sky.