The writer in me has always appreciated hearing other people’s stories. When I drove for Lyft a few summers ago, I picked up one passenger after his shift at a suburban AT&T store. He soon told me about his trials attempting to make the Kansas City Chiefs, an NFL team. “I just wasn’t quite good enough,” he admitted. There are plenty of reasons why people don’t drive; I never learned his reason. I dropped him off near a Louisville high school, where he promptly started jogging to the school’s football locker and training room facility.
I also picked up a belligerently drunk man at a Mexican restaurant who admitted that he’d “work” remotely from home the next day, undoubtedly hungover, by activating his work chat window on his laptop with his big toe while sprawled out in bed. He also confessed he was avoiding downtown Louisville because of “all the blacks” who’d be lining the streets for Muhammad Ali’s funeral procession. These two details seemed to speak volumes about him.
To some, both of these accounts might be mundane. But to me, they are snippets of a larger tapestry about who we are–for better or worse. The diversity of human experience is all around us in our hometowns; while traveling, it can be in your face when you’re often surrounded by people whose day-to-day lives and cultures diverge greatly from your own. This post is a visual appreciation of just a few folks we’ve encountered over the past six-plus months. They–and countless others–have enriched our journey, and we’ve been lucky to have many affirming moments through smiles, gestures, and nods even when the language barrier stands tall.
There’s no doubt my general understanding of humanity has been enhanced by this experience, but it’s also humbling to know how many more people and places are out there. So many more stories. So many perspectives. So many more interactions to be had both in our backyards and abroad. While these interactions might only represent slipping into someone else’s shoes and standing still–or perhaps taking a few small steps–I’m not sure there is a better way to gain empathy than by putting in the effort to interact with open-hearted curiosity.