How to contribute to be one ~ in your daily life


Sitting in this colourfully-painted bus with bright red and purple seats, the smell of roasted corn and sound of reggae music caught my attention. In the front seat were two small girls staring at me.  

Soon I felt all eyes were on me; and with that, the expectations of who I was supposed to be, what I was supposed to do and the feeling that I did not belong in that bus. I felt like hiding somewhere in the seat, somewhere in the corner, somewhere where nobody could see me, or how different I was. And then a feeling of distance overcame me. And it was not only that I did not feel part of a group, but I felt a deep incomprehension of why I was in that public transport. 

A distance was created by my appearance, by their expectations (which are associated with my colour), and by the general idea of belonging.




What is our contribution to the distance between us and them? And how do we reinforce it by our daily behaviour? Beside the geographical distance of people who take the bus and those who do not, which makes it difficult to interact, we are constantly searching for images around us that portray our expectations – the poor guy constantly walking rather than using the new railway; the rich guy buying food for his dog; the child with blond hair eating ice cream on a rainy day. And even if we are the lucky ones with neighbours who take the bus while we don’t, we would definitely count more differences between them and us than similarities. We are constantly trying to stay in our safe space, instead of embracing diversity. The daily routine in our own small world makes it almost impossible to discover the difference, to be seen as an outsider and to see others as the same.


And yes, even if we are secretly surprised from how much more is out there, we are tempted to tell the story that everybody wants to hear. It would be really too much work to confront all our friends and family with a different type of reality, from the one they know. How nice it would be though, to send a picture home portraying the general expectations of others (slightly exaggerated) with me as the hero in the middle of it!




Can we really get out of it? How do we overcome the gap created by expectations of who we are supposed to be? Wouldn’t it be nice to be invisible? 

That way we would sit in a bus and not attract attention to ourselves. We would cross the street and see all the different pictures, not just the ones we are taught to see, like the different ailments that can be treated by the ‘Mganga kutoka Tanzania’. We would even know more about our neighbours without arousing suspicion.

I suggest that we interact with people who we do not know; whether from another city, or those who don’t go to our local bars or even who get their haircuts under a tree. The difficult part however is addressing what we are supposed to know about them by asking and listening. Listen and ask. And should they in turn ask us the questions, let us graciously respond because they know as much about us as we about them, not much. You should not fall into the trap of telling them what they want to hear to escape the situation, instead explain yourself in detail. Ask, listen. Listen, explain.


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