My husband and I had a few days in Austin, TX, this past week. We visited the LBJ Museum and Library, had some great Indian cuisine, and walked and walked and walked! Usually it rains when we’re on a trip to somewhere new, but this time, the weather was sunny and mild.
We stayed in a b&b a few blocks from the University of Texas at Austin, so the streets were lined with fast food joints, bookstores, and clothes for college kids. Austin is a bit like Berkeley to me – a city that has evolved with the University at its center.
I noticed something that surprised and delighted me while we were in Austin. I made a mental note to write about it here, since it is definitely whatcommunitiesneednow. I thought this simple action was missing all over, but I discovered that it wasn’t missing in Austin, TX.
As Jeff and I walked around town, on sidewalks that sometimes included several steps up or down on any given block, we were passed by college age young people who looked at us, and said, “hi!”
Is this a Texas thing? Can I really come away from Texas thinking this is the most friendly place to be? Maybe. And maybe not. But one thing is for sure: I noticed.
Here in the Bay Area, I’ve often thought that we are missing a simple look at another person, anyone we pass on the street. We walk past one another, our eyes glazed over, as if to not see the human being who is coming toward us. We all have lots of barriers inside ourselves to folks who are strangers, or “other.” That seems to be part of being human. But I think it makes our streets less safe when we simply do not look at each other.
As a child, I learned to not look at someone if I thought they could not be trusted. That’s what it means to me. In the East Bay where I live, the diversity of folks is striking – and is also our real strength. But if the diversity is only another example of “other,” than the diversity which is our strength is only our limitation.
What if… we taught young children to look at others on the street, to nod, to acknowledge someone else, even a “stranger?” Who is the “stranger?” Isn’t the “stranger” just us, unrecognized?
I think so. I hope so. I want to trust that it is so.
The revolution to a gentler, kinder world begins here, with you, and with me.