Tonight I went running/walking around Lake of the Isles, as I usually do on dreamy summer nights. I hate to run but I am so motivated, knowing all the beauty I will be surrounded with as I make my way around the Isles. It is truly one of my favorite places in the Twin Cities. No matter what time of day you go to Isles there are always people around: maybe lovers under a tree, or someone reading a classic on a blanket. Sometimes friends will be picnicking or walking their dogs. Many times there are others running just like me. You can’t help but meet eyes with a variety of people unless you deliberately look away (which some people do). I always prefer to lock eyes. For some strange reason, I feel more human as my eyes connect with the otherness present in someone else. Mostly, because for a brief moment in time, we both find that there isn’t as much otherness as we thought but rather a reconciling grin. It is almost as if you have found another friend in that moment.
Today was no different. I ran along with my iPod blasting none other than U2 when I noticed a couple coming towards me. They were Middle Eastern and both were wearing traditional, conservative Muslim dress. The woman in specific was wearing a Khimar. It is the sort of dress that covers a woman from head to toe and only the woman’s eyes show, as the veil is draped right under her eyes. I am trying to be as descriptive as I can, and I am sorry if I am not using proper terminology. As they walked toward me, I immediately became angered. Today in Minneapolis it was 90 degrees and extremely humid. At times it was difficult to breathe. Here this poor woman is covered from head to toe in black veils. I wanted to run up to her and rip it off and cry. That might seem dramatic but that is how I felt at the moment. However, I knew there was nothing to be done. This is a culture, a tradition, and a faith. I did, however, ask myself, what can I do in this moment to extend friendship to this woman?’ Now just as a disclaimer: I am not saying that this woman was being abused or forced or that this was a terrible thing even. I simply felt bad because it was so incredibly hot. Anyway, in that moment, I stared at her until I caught her eye. She looked at me. I smiled and nodded and fanned my fingers in the air for a slight, timid wave. As she stared back, I saw the skin around her eyes raise slightly as she smiled at me with her eyes. Unfortunately I was not able to see her beautiful mouth that was concealed by her veil, but like I said I knew she smiled back at me. And just like that our moment of connection was over. We had passed each other. Her eyes were warm and tender and inviting; there was a hospitality put forth in both of our glances.
We sensed each other’s otherness and felt right at home… and it was only a moment! Can you imagine if we had more than a moment? What could we do with more than a moment? All of us. If we can truly feel oneness with a person who is so different maybe the thing is… we just aren’t as different as we thought. I love that, and I dream of it.