As I type this, I’m sitting in SFO’s decidedly trendy food court. All the food stands selling the normal organic fare are drawn closed. It’s 10:16pm and my flight leaves at midnight. I would normally appreciate the calmness that this lends but I am not present enough in this moment to enjoy it. My mind is still on the ride I took get here sitting in the back seat of a black female Lyft driver’s car. 20 miles, 30 minutes.
Her and I.
I and her.
We fell into an easy familiarity that unacquainted black folks can sometimes cultivate without effort. No doubt, I reminded her of people she knew just as much as she reminded me of some of my sisters, aunts and friends. Our conversation ebbed and flowed naturally. Where our voices trailed off Michael Jackson’s picked up, carrying us with him. Our talk wove between our hometowns, lives and dreams. Later, it would dawn on me that we didn’t have the option to talk about our lives without also having to talk about racism. When I told her I was originally from Florida she told me she always wanted to live there but was afraid about being black there. I wondered if she was thinking about Trayvon or Jordan Davis or Rosewood or Overtown like I was. I had personal stories I could share but I didn’t think she needed them. She was black like me after all. I was sure she has her own. And sure enough, she told me stories of white and Asian passengers she’s picked up in San Francisco. The ones who’d talked down to her and the ones who’d talked crazy to her and the ones who’d left terrible comments in her review section. I wondered if we’ve both have experienced a lifetime of microaggressions, where does that leave us? How do we heal it in ourselves? And how do we heal each other?
As I listened to her speak, the only thing I could think to do was listen. Truly listen and be present with her in that car in hopes of sharing at least a sliver of her burden. I don’t for a second think that this will be enough to heal her or my own wounds but I do believe that it’s a start.
“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.” – Thich Nhat Hanh