Let me share a story with you. When I was a kid, I lived on an Air Force base in Limestone, Maine. People used to ask who my dad made mad enough to send us that far up, but so be it.
I used to bowl in Saturday morning leagues, and I wasn’t bad as a kid. One year, a group of us decided we wanted to go to this state tournament for kids our age; I have no idea where it was at this point, but I wish I could remember it. Anyway, we left with our chaperone on a Friday, headed to this particular town somewhere in Northern Maine, south of where we were already living. I knew things were going to be somewhat different as soon as we went into the hotel.
The front desk person snapped to attention to take care of us, but she couldn’t take her eyes off me. I was a cute kid, but I wasn’t that cute. No one else with me noticed at the time, but it would come.
After getting our bags into our rooms and chilling a bit, we decided we were going to walk to the Pizza Hut that we’d seen coming in. We didn’t have Pizza Hut near where we lived, so this was going to be a treat. As we were walking down the street, I happened to start looking at the cars as they were passing by. Each car had people, drivers and passengers, staring our way. Okay, staring at me. Some mouths dropped, some cars even slowed down. The kids who were with me didn’t notice, but I did.
When we walked into Pizza Hut, within seconds every single voice in the place stopped. That’s when my friends finally noticed something was going on, something they weren’t prepared for. The greeter literally ran over, big smile on his face, and escorted us to a table. Once we were seated, my friends finally noticed everyone looking at our table, and it took them a couple of minutes to realize that people were looking at me. Actually, they probably figured it out when people started coming to the table and asking if they could shake my hand.I was a regular celebrity. 🙂
My teammates were slightly unnerved, but I wasn’t; not yet anyway. I’m not sure why, but in a way I had been expecting something to happen. I was more prepared for negative things, though, nothing quite as positive as this experience was. We ended up getting our meal for free; you take it when you can get it.
The next day at the bowling alley was quite an experience, and now I was unnerved. Word had gotten out around town, and people were crowded into the bowling alley when we arrived, mainly looking to see me.
It was a relatively large bowling alley, but for most of the day everyone was standing behind me and my team. I didn’t bowl particularly well, with all the pressure; heck, I was only 13 years old after all. I shook many hands, and, if those had been days when people had digital cameras, I’m sure there would have been a slew of pictures.
A funny thing happened while I was there. I basically had to change a part of my personality when it was my turn to bowl. Usually when I bowled bad, I just got meaner and dug in deep; I was an emotional kind of kid, because I always wanted to win and I always wanted to be perfect.
This day, I recognized I was a first contact, if you will, and any other black person who happened into town after me would be judged on what I did on that day. I chose to act properly, because we left that town with people having a good feeling about me; I didn’t encounter a single mean person during that entire weekend stay, and we got both lunch and dinner for free again. My teammates said they could get used to that, without the realization that we weren’t really paying for anything anyway. lol
Why am I telling this story? I have two reasons.
The first is because the hardest thing for many people to understand is what it’s like being “the only”, or one of only a few. I’m that most of the time where I live, and every place I’ve consulted or worked.
It’s not the worst life, because sometimes you stand out in the crowd (literally). Other times, people walk by as if they didn’t see me. Of course they see me; I’m hard to miss, even with my weight loss. But some try hard not to notice me, and I can always feel it; actions never lie.
The second reason is because I run into a lot of people who say they can’t change their behavior or their thoughts or their present condition or… well, pretty much everything else. I own up to having a few things that I’m solidly staying rigid on (like nasty vegetables and cheese lol), but otherwise I’ve always been up for improvement and growth in my life, personal or otherwise.
It shouldn’t take being around different people for someone to act better. It shouldn’t take a tragedy for people to start thinking about treating others better. It shouldn’t take a new years resolution for people to decide to make positive changes for themselves.
All it takes is today and tomorrow… rinse and repeat… over and over. For more confirmation, check out this video: