I was reflecting today on a recent NBA playoff game I attended in my home city. The arena was packed that night and the atmosphere was electric as 15,000+ fans eagerly awaited the beginning of the game. As I waited for the tip off, I noticed an elderly gentleman and a teenage boy enter the row in front of us as they looked for their seats. The older man introduced himself as Dave to people as he walked by and proudly let everyone know that the young man with him was his youngest grandson Michael.
As my team fell behind in the game, my attention was drawn to Dave and the conversations he was having with those around him. The group that surrounded Dave was generationally and racially diverse, resembling an American melting pot of sorts. He engaged everyone in his vicinity with a warm smile, polite banter, courteous questions and comments on the game. He also shared a few funny stories, talked about his family and his lifetime love affair with basketball. Nobody seemed to mind. In fact, the crowd seemed to genuinely enjoy being around this delightful and joy-filled man. When the game ended, he sincerely thanked everyone for making the game more enjoyable for him and his grandson.
What struck me as interesting about this encounter with Dave, was the contrast it demonstrates in our country today with the division and hatred we constantly hear about through the media and groups with questionable agendas. I have no doubt this exists in pockets all over, but through the example of Dave and countless other experiences I have had, I know there is also a great deal of love, joy, kindness and mutual respect in the world. Division and hatred are not our pre-determined destiny. We have a clear choice to make about how we engage with each other and there is no reason why we can’t choose civility, kindness, respect and even love in our daily encounters.
I absolutely see the complexity of the problem, but I also believe in the simplicity of the solution. Today (and every day) you and I will have opportunities to engage with someone who doesn’t look like us, sound like us, share our beliefs or look at the world as we do. We must remember that we are all human beings and fellow travelers on this earth. As writer G. K. Chesterton once said, “We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.”
You and I will not solve the problems of the world by ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we can’t act. We can emulate Dave and the other good examples we likely have observed in our daily lives. We can choose to engage everyone with a smile, assume good intent, look for common ground and hopefully reflect whatever joy we may be feeling towards others. Let’s reject the noise and choose to build a world where this is the norm, and not the exception. St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” A few nights ago, a man named Dave created positive ripples that left a strong impression on me and the people around him.
Maybe we should all be more like Dave.