You can catch me on public transit almost never. However there are few things that make me feel more city boy than riding BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). When I was working downtown I began to truly appreciate that part of my morning commute and I began to notice how sacred this routine could be. I normally love seeing friends everywhere but if I see you on a BART train I will most likely hide from you and not take my eyes off my phone so we don’t make eye contact. Don’t worry it’s not you it’s me. I love talking to people but I learned that avoiding one person on public transit is far better than receiving the death stare from 95% of the other passengers who probably haven’t had their coffee yet. There’s something sacred about silence on a train and I had one of the most meaningful conversations on the train without ever saying a word.
Psychologists say that there are defining moments in your life that shape who you are. These moments become a part of your character and play a huge role in how you view the world. Surprisingly, I had a defining moment in what would normally be just a short commute into the city. As soon as I got on the train, I noticed this little girl with the most alluring presence. It seemed like every woman was trying to get her attention. The train turned into a battle royale of grown women mumbling high pitched sounds and flailing their bodies ridiculously, unaware of how they looked to the rest of the adults, just to get the attention of this little human until finally one did. This little girl found beauty in another person and they were both equally drawn to each other. They just kept giggling and playing for what seemed like forever. The mother finally turned around to see who it was and she ended up doing a double take; I just don’t think this family could see the same thing. The woman she was playing with wore a hijab so the mom saw Muslim and the girl saw woman. By no means am I saying that this mother was racist, all that I believe is that her eyes—even if it was just for a moment—may have seen a different picture. Our perception influences our views far more than what our eyes actually see.
I believe falling for someone proves that last point. Maybe I’m a hopeless romantic, but what I am starting to notice is that when you really start liking someone you start to fall in love with all the little details of their smile. You might start to notice all the different colors of their skin. And if you’re really lucky they start to get this annoying glow that makes you want to spend every moment with them because it truly brings you joy. The crazy thing is that they may not have changed but the way that you view them does. If anything the way that you view them should inspire you enough to change for the better. That is the power of perception.
I have a confession, I sometimes wear fashion (fake) glasses. In a weird way, it’s been a dream of mine to need a prescription. Maybe because I was never particularly gifted intellectually like everyone else in my family but I always thought I needed something to help me feel or at least look smarter (or I secretly wanted to look like a Filipino Clark Kent). But over time I noticed a clear paradox, I saw better without wearing glasses. While driving my vision would get obstructed due to dust or dirt in the lenses and I would take them off and I would see perfectly. I’m starting to learn that even if the eyes are perfect, the perception may still be flawed due to the lenses that are being worn and sometimes we might forget that we have them on.
Yup, I am definitely one of those guys that makes their roommates call their phone when they lose it. Often, I’ll be late because I can’t find my keys (and because I’m just brown). Along with that sometimes I’ll be wearing glasses or sunnies (hip way of saying sunglasses) and I’ll lose them and look for them everywhere except for my face. Seeing that little girl on BART reminded me that so often I forget that I am wearing a lens over my eyes. I don’t see the world through the eyes of a child. When I look at someone I wear a lens created by the summation of my experiences, influences, and biases. There are constant external factors not only changing the way we view people but also robbing us from the potential of creating and growing relationships.
Our view of the world and the people who inhabit it is completely influenced by the lenses that we wear, but one of the best things about wearing glasses is that you can take them off at any time. We don’t have to view each other the way the media or the people around us want us to. The truth is, you are never going to see the beauty of creation if you look through the eyes of culture. Looking through the eyes of a child is not about looking past our differences, but it is about searching for beauty no matter what it looks like. It is about curiosity, discovery, and forgiveness. Looking through the eyes of a child is about looking at people as human, not by their gender, race, religion, or beliefs. Maybe when we search for the beauty in the people all around us, we can finally walk together as humanity.