One of the things I have long loved about city living is the anonymity, and more particularly; finding within the anonymity your common humanity with the strangers around you. In my current employment, I get to interrupt the lives of people rushing past me, seeming to see only the next thing on their list, the lineup of their day, a driving goal they must reach in time. I interrupt them and speak for those who cannot, working for the chance to be heard and to connect them with someone completely outside of their world. Interrupting other people's lives is fascinating; watching the effect of these encounters on my life is no less so.
Today I met a man from the Czech Republic. It was so much fun to get to speak with him in a mixture of Czech, Slovak, and English. Earlier in the morning I met a man and stumbled through a brief conversation with him in Spanish. It was like dragging words out of a dream for me, so long since I have used that mind and tongue. I love that I can find here people in whom I can find an echo of life I know, but whose personal experiences in life are so incredibly different than my own.
I spoke with one gentleman today, a friendly and brief exchange that made me smile--only to have him come back an hour or two later and blame me for losing him a contract. He spoke hatefully, commenting derogatorily on my appearance, tearing apart our conversation from earlier and it was shocking to see the transformation. I lost him nothing, in all honesty. I was a scapegoat to his bad morning and nothing else, but watching him rage there at me, at my coworkers, at the man whose conversation with me he interrupted--it was sad. It was as though he was dismantling his humanity and baring beast teeth and no one was impressed. "He is a sick, sick man," someone commented to me, shaking his head and then apologizing to me for what the man had said. "Don't you listen to that man. And you're beautiful, don't even think about what he said."
I hope I will never see that man again. I struggled with anxiety the rest of the day, wondering if others I meet would be like him, wondering if the whole world is like him, wondering what hope we have for ourselves when in reaction to our own disappointments we go out and deliberately crush and attempt to humiliate those surrounding us, people who are our neighbors for a second and our fellow humans for our lifetime. I wonder what it was he was hoping for and why his disappointment so devastated him; is his mind already sick, or did he have so much hinging on this one possibility that the disappointment of loss maddened him and lost him to himself?
The rest of my day was filled with fascinating encounters; a man who was homeless and on the streets at fifteen and sixteen who is now passionate about helping homeless children. My Slavic smile of the day. People who love to travel as much as I do, who love people and hold hope for humanity. Riding home at the end of the day, I saw a woman wearing a Santa Claus hat with "Bah Humbug" on it (like one I own but alas, is in storage this year). She sat down behind me on the metro and I turned and asked her about her hat--resulting in our chatting the rest of the ride to my stop. We just talked about Christmas, about giving gifts to our friends, about our families and life. It was beautiful.
Here in this city, there is so much opportunity to do things and so many people who like me, come from all over the world. I am reminded often of my days studying in London, when I first felt as if I could be in one place and experience all of my homes again. I love it. Walking home tonight, I stopped first at the grocery store and then wandered back laden down with oranges and wine and firewood and I was just overwhelmed with how completely happy I am to be here, in this city, in this place and time despite all the difficulties, despite the upheaval of perpetual transition, despite the continual unknown. I think how many things I am going to have learnt at the end of this, and I find myself slowly adapting to the continual feeling of being off kilter and unsettled. Though I have only been in this apartment now for a week and my room is a disaster zone, I can call it home and feel at home.
I am so excited for the perpetual possibility here for involvement and the motion picture of humanity playing around me every day and bumping into me. These make it possible to dream, and wondrous
to exist as a being. So here's to humanity, and to possibility to renew and transform ourselves and the world around us even one small moment at a time.