It is not that you are right and I am wrong. Or even that I am right and you are wrong. It’s just not that simple. Not that black and white.
The world is a colorful place. A colorful place that we each perceive with our own eyes.
Perspective… it is such an interesting thing.
This weekend my neighbors had a block party. An annual birthday bash for the elderly gentleman that lives there. He would soon turn 90 years old. Oddly enough, on the same day that our youngest daughter turns four. To them, it was just a simple birthday party to celebrate a very loved man.
To the outsider, it was a block party. Cars and people stretched around the neighboring streets. Music echoed off buildings that stood miles away.
And then, there was us. Our house sat helplessly at ground zero to the party of the year.
We were warned about this event. They described a party that had been held there for over 25 years. They even asked us if it would be okay.
What were going to say? No?
We offered our yard for additional guests to park in. We offered our city garbage can and full use of our shared driveway. Then, we shut our windows, turned up our fans and cranked the volume on our TV’s.
This morning, I awoke too early. My head throbbed. The brightness of the day scorched my eyes as though I were a vampire. I staggered to the coffee pot. Fumbling with the wet filter from yesterday, I felt the soft touch of a hand on my shoulder, “Here hun, let me get that for you.” I hadn’t even noticed a friend of ours was sitting at the table talking with my husband. The table I had just walked by seconds before.
Having my current task taken over, I went back into my bedroom to slip on something less revealing. I had no intention of leading on the, not so well kept secret crush, this friend had. Not that I was at all flattered by this mans peaked interest. He appeared to show interest in every female that crossed his path.
Still, I felt a need to draw the boundaries. In thick neon lines. I grabbed a large, black, t-shirt… from my husbands side of the closet.
A moment later there was a knock on my bedroom door. There stood our friend with a steaming cup of fresh coffee in his hand. “Coffees done,” he said, a little too cheerfully. Regardless, the update was music to my ears.
I poured a cup of coffee, taking a generous sip. Half disgusted at the bitter taste of a coffee brewed too strong. Half in awe of the alertness it was slowly providing as it coursed through my digestive system. I would have the jitters later, but for now, that hardly mattered. I gazed out of our dining room window, across our yard, across the street, across the parking lot beyond that. I stood, sipping the only beverage that could quench my thirst on a morning like this.
“Wow, there’s garbage scattered everywhere.” I stated, with much less enthusiasm than the sentence warranted.
“I was worried about you guys last night,” our friend began. He, apparently had more coffee than I had, I thought, as his voice filled with emotion that I was not yet capable of.
I wondered why I felt so hung over. I hadn’t even attended the party, let alone drank.
Our friend went on, “your house was surrounded by black people. They were everywhere. Up and down the street. In your yard. The neighbors yard.”
I shrugged, “The music wasn’t too loud.”
“Music?!” He exclaimed, “I wasn’t worried about the music. I was worried about you guys, in this house, surrounded by all those black people. You could have been robbed. Your house shot up. I walked by, from a few blocks over, last night. There were niggers everywhere!”
I noticeably shuddered in disgust at his choice of words.
I remained standing there, staring out that window at the garbage strewn across my view. I watched as a partially broken cup blew across the road, slamming into the curb on the apposing side. I hadn’t had enough coffee to put an effort into voicing my reaction to the man’s words. I simply stood there, debating if I found them ironically amusing or not.
You see, this friend of ours. He is black.
I thought about the party last night. I had lay in my bed, awake, far longer than I wished. I could hear virtually everything as I rested in our bedroom, nothing but a thin wall separating it from the party that stood outside.
I remembered hearing the greetings of old friends reuniting. The laughter of folks gathered together. The foot stomps of dancing. The music that had a melody to it that lifted your soul.
I remember glancing out of my bedroom window just before I laid down. Earlier in the day I had watched as our neighbors hung large string lights between our houses. I had thought it was such a neat idea. I was curious how beautiful the setting would look at night.
I smiled as I looked out of my bedroom window at those lights shimmering down on our shared driveway. My smile grew as my eyes fell on a large group of people grinning up at a camera that a member of the crowd held in his outstretched hand. I nearly laughed as they all slowly leaned back in unison, attempting to fit into the shot.
I smiled, because of the simple beauty of the moment.
Their faces were different than mine. Their music wasn’t what I listened to. They drove different style cars and wore different style clothes. But, the way their eyes twinkled with happiness as they smiled up at that camera. That was the same. I knew that joy.
I didn’t fall asleep with ear plugs in my ears. Or even a pillow over my head. I didn’t fall asleep fearing that my home would be broken into, robbed for everything I had. I didn’t fall asleep fearing that bullets would come shearing through my home in the middle of the night. I didn’t fall asleep with the fear for my family that this friend of ours so vividly felt.
I fell asleep with a smile, listening to the joyous festivities of people gathered together.
I took another sip of my much too strong coffee. I wondered to myself, how could this friend of ours have such an off-balanced stereotypical response. I wondered why that response had never even crossed my mind. Why were our feelings so different, about the same exact party, the same exact group of people, the same exact event.
I watched another piece of garbage get caught in the wind, drifting and tumbling toward its new location. I thought of the joyous evening that simple piece of garbage represented. Smiling, I grabbed a bag from beneath our kitchen sink and started walking towards the front door.
But then, I turned towards our friend, my eyes twinkling as they met my husbands. I shrugged my porcelain white, freckled shoulders and said, as nonchalantly as before, “at least the music wasn’t too loud.”
I closed the door behind me, smiled warmly at my neighbor, and began helping him clean up.
The world is a colorful place. A colorful place that we each perceive with our own eyes. It is not that you are right and I am wrong. Or even, that I am right and you are wrong. It’s just not that simple. It is not that black and white.
Perspective… it is such an interesting thing.