So there’s this elderly gentleman who was a maintenance man in the building I work in and years ago we became fast friends. We would talk about anything and everything and typically in a very honest fashion. Race, religion, politics, social issues, etc. - nothing was off limits. We were irreverent, crass, crude and brutally honest. We would crack each other up and would laugh long and hard, often to the point of tears. Every time we saw each other it was easily a 20 minute conversation on current or past events. Those around us never really understood us, but it didn’t matter to us. Over the years I really treasured our interactions - you never knew what the other would say or how far we would take it.
He retired at the end of July. He stopped by my office today to say goodbye and to make sure we would stay in touch. As he was leaving he stopped and took my hand, looked me right in the eyes and said “Thank you for restoring my faith in humanity.” He went on to explain that there are so many racist people and he was very pleased to see that I was not. It made me think back on all of the interactions we’d had and I realized what I hadn’t realized at the time, people often stared at us and you could just feel the judgement coming off of them in waves. I’ll never understand why people feel the way they do or why an elderly black man and a younger white man laughing their fool heads off while leaning on each other for support caused such looks full of hate and disgust.