I’ve always claimed that I’ve never really been affected by racist or religious prejudices. However, the truth is I have been affected, but maybe not in an obvious external way. An anecdote to explain:
I had lunch at a small diner the other day. We were one of the only customers, and my waitress was a sweet young adult blonde girl, who gave wonderful service. However, I became so lost in conversation with my friend that I genuinely forgot to leave her a tip. While driving in the middle of the road, it hit me. “Oh my god, I didn’t leave a tip!” I immediately felt this enormous weight of regret and guilt, truly enormous, I’m not exaggerating. A lot of friends told me it happens, don’t worry. Yet, I kid you not I felt such deep guilt that I was truly tempted to drive all the way back to the restaurant. Can you imagine? Coming back to the restaurant after 30 minutes,”I’m so sorry I forgot to tip”.
Why such strong emotions? The truth is the regret and guilt that encompassed me was because my first thought was, “I hope she doesn’t generalize Muslims because of this.” I was imagining her naturally becoming upset that I gave her zero tip, and feared that it would affect how she saw any hijabi Muslims in the future. It’s not fair for me to think like this, but I couldn’t help it. I keep hearing about so much racism and numerous mass shootings, I’ve started to feel like any imperfect encounter with an obvious looking Muslim could fuel something bad. It’s like I’ve started to see myself not as much a person to the outside world than a way to simply test a preconception about the Muslim population. Hence, the feeling of a heavy burden if I ever mess up.
But then a few days later, God showed me to have a little more faith.
I was shopping in Walmart, and was following my sister down the center aisle. The center aisle is where they have random food items highlighted, and stacked like a tower so you can just grab an item while you’re on your way to whichever aisle you need to go to. As I was moving, I accidentally got my cart caught in the top cardboard tray holding probably 12 Powerades. The next thing you know, three crates loudly crash to the floor, Powerade bottles rolling down the floor as I had just knocked down the top of the tower. I look in the distance, and see my sister’s face shocked in disappointment. Honestly, I was shocked too; these things only happen in the movies. I started looking at the about 30 Powerades on the floor, thinking what am I going to do? Right after, an old lady, a middle aged woman, and 2 young boys all came to me from one to three aisles away and started picking up the Powerade bottles and putting them back on the tower. Furthermore, the old lady started saying, “Yeah they don’t make these shelves sturdy. You would think they would, but I guess not.” She didn’t even think it was my fault! I thanked them as we picked up the bottles, and they didn’t leave until each one was picked up.
After we all parted ways, my heart was full. There are a lot of wonderful strangers out there, but sadly we sometimes get lost in highlights of the bad.
The world is not all bad, and we don’t need to feel like tests, because we are people seen as people for the most part. However when everyone shares only the bad incidents and not enough of the good, we can’t help our perception getting skewed for the worse.
Cheers to the many wonderful people out there that have made strangers smile but maybe not received a shoutout. You are an important aspect of my reality.