The clothing I often wear resembles the attire worn by Muslims all across the world. I was dressed in gold kaftan today when I entered a convenience store to pick up some water and snacks.
The man behind the counter kept staring at me as if he had a question he wanted to ask. While I was paying him for my snacks he asked, “what country did you come to America from?” I told him that that I was born here. I then got that look I usually get from people which makes me feel more like an enigma than a person. I explained to the clerk that I dress to celebrate my lineage and pay homage of my ancestors.
My willingness to talk fueled his desire to engage me some more. There was no one else in the store. We must have spent about 20 minutes conversing. I learned that he was from India and, typically, dressed in the same manner as me in his country. He explained that he does not dress in his traditional attire here in the United States because it, and this was his word, “scares” people. I let him know that I was fully aware of the pervasiveness xenophobia in this country. Following a question he asked me about my work, I explained that one of the reasons I chose to be a storyteller was, precisely, to combat that level of ignorance.
When our conversation ended I thanked him for taking time to talk so sincerely with me. He called out to me as I was exiting the double glass doors. I stopped and turned back to see what he wanted as I held the door open.
He looked me in the eyes and, emotionally, slightly choking back his words said, “Thank you “my” brother… thank you for what you do in this world.”
You never know “how,” or “when,” you will touch the life of another.