I’ve been taking the Metro to and from both the kick off on Saturday for the WriteGirl season 13 and to attend the Film Festival screenings.
On one of these trips two Asian women asked me for directions. Then they ended up seated next to and across from me on the train so I asked them where they were visiting from. I thought they said “Philly.” Assuming they were glad to be in sunny California, far from the cold and perhaps snow of Philadelphia, I replied, “You must be glad to be here and not there.” They nodded eagerly.
In a seat perpendicular to us a man, wearing dark sunglasses and dressed entirely in black, surprised me by asking, “Do you have family there now?” They responded that they did. He asked which island. They answered and he said he’d been there and it was a lovely location. That was when I began to realize that I has misunderstood these ladies.
This man continued to surprise me when he asked if they’d spoken with their family, were they prepared for the typhoon and then provided specific details about the path of the Typhoon – the wind speed, the likelihood of the impact to the island, etc.. He even spoke a few words to them in their native language. I was embarrassed that I had not seen the news in ages and was clueless to the storm that was bearing down on the islands. With my recent travels, I thought of myself as more aware of the world than that. I realized that I’d allowed myself to become out of touch with what was happening beyond my borders.
I also learned, once again, that people will constantly surprise you. I never would have pegged this guy as one who cared about what was happening half a world away. Similarly I encountered others on my train journeys who did not fit the profile I created for them in my head based solely on their color, age, size or wardrobe.
I was chastened. It’s hard to keep an open mind but it’s the only kind anyone should have.
Today, hearing the stories of the devastation wrought by Haiyan, I was reminded of this.
My sympathies go out to all who are struggling with the loss of family and homes in the wake of the massive damage inflicted by the typhoon.