I was sitting at a friend’s auto mechanic shop recently, waiting for his guys to take a look at my car. Knowing it would be a while, I took a seat in the waiting room with two ladies who appeared to have been waiting for some time as well. I am not the type of person to just sit in a waiting room and not talk to anyone; it just does not make sense to me. After all, talking to people makes time fly. And so one of us made a comment about something, I can’t remember who began or what it was about, but it just took off from there.
Their names were Joy and Angela, mother and daughter and an absolute delight. We talked about the weather, car repairs, the economy, the world, and whatever else came to mind. It did not take long before we were carrying on like we had known each other our whole lives. One of the fun things they shared with me was their experience finding and meeting new family members, some of whom lived in New York and others in Israel. They had Jewish heritage through a white family member they had discovered, and they were so excited about it! Discovering this one person led them to this whole family they did not even know they had and as they told me what they had learned about their family, I could tell what an incredible and meaningful experience it had been for them.
As we shared stories of our genealogy finds, I shared with them what I knew about my family, that mom’s side were 19th century immigrants and that dad’s side, mostly from Western Europe settled in the South, most of them poor farmers and marble workers. I shared that a few of the men who settled in South Carolina and Virginia became wealthy planters, and that I’d discovered those individuals owned slaves. They listened intently, without judgment, interested in what I had found and how I felt about it. What I shared about my slavery discovery led to a conversation about race relations, differences in religions and cultures, and as we talked, we wondered why people just could not get along. I mean there we were talking and laughing as if we had known each other for years; the color of our skin did not matter. We were just these three human beings thrown into this place and time and it would have been such a waste not to take advantage of it. And that, we did. We managed to cover so many topics, making the transition from one to the next with great ease. And in the end, when we talked of the joy it had been to meet, we agreed if more people did what we did, and just reached out, and talked to each other, the world would be a better place.
What I learned from this two-hour conversation with Joy and Angela enriched me and made me a better person, and I hope it did for them as well. One of the greatest joys of life is meeting new people, engaging in discussion and exchanging ideas. Whenever I have the opportunity to do this, I try to take advantage of it. I learn so much about others and about myself. It is a learning experience and I plan to keep it up for as long as I can.
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