I’ve always been drawn to and felt a kindred spirit with the underdog, those whose voice is not heard because it’s coming from the fringe of society.
Growing up in a white, liberal, middle-class creative, and entrepreneurial (before that was the ‘buzz’ occupation) household in New York City during the 60s and 70s, my sister and I were not taught to see race or cultural lines -- we learned that people are people. My friends looked like a United Colors of Benetton ad – black, white, Asian, Arabic, Muslim, European, African, and then some.
At age 10, I got to experience crossing borders and international travel when we went on a family summer vacation to Europe for three months. We drove from France to Norway, zigzagging along the way, visiting museums, chateaus, sightseeing the standard haunts, and eating cheese, bread and fruit by the side of the road. During our drives, we found our way through the slums and I remember begging my parents to let me out, crying that I didn’t want to go to museums, they could pick me up later, because I was drawn to the energy of the slums. I wanted to know more, get up close and personal, it seemed familiar, and where I belonged.
I wasn’t comfortable even at that young age around all things white. For whatever reason, I saw imbalance and injustice and wanted to do something, or at least just soak it in to try and understand our differences. This was probably the birth of my insatiable curiosity and, subconsciously, my ‘brand’ of giving voice to things that matter.
My sister and I attended the United Nations International School, for me, from fifth grade through high school. At that time, we were part of the small quota of Americans who were accepted. This exposed me even further to a global perspective, and a hunger to cross borders and experience different cultures.
Years later, life and professional circumstances took me to Ghana and Angola in Africa, and Haiti, pre-earthquake. These life-enriching and life-changing experiences continue to inform who I am today. It was impossible not to see race lines in those countries. It was the first time I ever experienced being the minority (aside from being a woman and a Jew). But I was welcomed, safe, and witnessed unspeakable poverty, yet a generosity of spirit and heart that I’ve never encountered anywhere else.
After sometimes not seeing another white person for weeks at a time during my travels, I returned to Brooklyn and attended a Bob Dylan (an all time favorite) concert in Prospect Park. It took me a while to identify my discomfort, but I finally did – the concert was filled with only white people, and I was extremely uncomfortable.
I write to share stories, experiences, and expand perspectives because we are all breath the same air. We all need to eat, drink, pee, shit, sleep, give and receive love, and feel a sense of purpose and belonging. We all have a story that’s worth hearing and from which we can learn and potential uplift another human being.
So today, perhaps become more curiosity and open your heart and mind to learning about someone you encounter that seems insignificant for whatever reason. The world is upside down so let's up our human being game. As the old AT&T phone company ad used to say, “Reach out and touch someone.” It's magical, amazing, and transformative when we make those human connections in unexpected ways. Don't know about you but I welcome magical moments!