It was a late night. I don’t usually make calls at this time but they were paying me extra and I needed the money. I’m mobile notary part-time, so I’m often sent to peoples homes to collect signatures and notarize legal documents. I sat down at the kitchen table and got the paperwork ready. The man was in his late 60s. As I waited he fumbled around some counters in the kitchen looking for his reading glasses. It was clear he lived alone. I’ve been in enough bachelor pads to know when a woman isn’t around regularly. Fox News was playing on the television. A hurricane was making landfall off the coast of Texas.
He was a chatty fellow. Usually, I try not to get caught up in conversation since it really slows down the signing process. In addition, it was late and I wanted to go home. However, unfortunately for me, I can also be rather chatty. About half way through the signing the reporter on the TV cuts to news on Trump pardoning sheriff Joe Arpaio and also enforcing his ban on transgender individuals from serving in the military. The correspondents start to discuss the possible strategic intentions of Trump using the hurricane as a tool to get these two controversial decisions passed with little to no coverage.
I couldn't help myself… I let it slip. Under my breath, I chuckled and commented that it seemed like that was “the only way for Trump to get anything done.” Luckily, the man wasn’t offended. Instead, it sparked a conversation between the two of us. After some lite criticism of Trump, the man expressed to me his hope that Don would turn things around for him and people like him. I asked him what he meant by that. He went on to describe Trump as someone that was attempting to “clean house.” He said that Trump was getting so much heat because he “wasn’t going to help the rich pay for their fancy jets and the such.” I refuted him saying that if that was the case Trump is not doing very well. Trump’s current tax plan would provide large tax cuts for individuals the man was saying Trump was combating. He was quick to say that, “If that is the case then I’m definitely against that.”
We went back and forth a little bit. He was surprised at how knowledgeable I was. I told him that it was common for people my age to have a good understanding of the issues. Just because we don’t come to the same conclusions doesn’t mean we don’t do our homework.
Then, just as we were finishing up he brought up the statues.
He explained to me that he was a huge history buff. In his home, he had a wall full of books and he proudly confessed they were mostly history books. I believed him, in the course of our conversation he had recommended at least 3 titles that I had to pick up. We both tip-toed around the topic of racism. I could tell he didn’t want to offend me and truthfully I just didn’t feel like getting into it. He finally shared with me that what didn’t make sense to him was why it was such a big deal now. He didn’t understand why this was suddenly even a topic of discussion. He instead took it as an attack on the history of our nation. It was clear that this bothered him on an emotional level. He urged me that he hated racism. But he didn’t see how this was going to fix anything.
The signing was done, so I gathered my things packed them in my messenger bag and said to the man, “I can see how there are frustrations on both sides” as I got up and started walking to the door. We said goodbye and I went home.
Unfortunately, I tell you this story, not as an example of pushing through social barriers or championing the case for equality despite social awkwardness. I tell you this because I deeply regret my actions. In that moment I had an opportunity, not to change his mind, but to at least give him a different perspective to consider. I look back at that night and what bothers me most is that I don’t honestly know if anyone with my same perspective will be able to sit down at that table with him and have a decent conversation about these two opposing view points.
Listen up, this goes for everyone. It is not our mission to change everyone's mind or to get everyone to agree with what we believe. It is our mission, as people who share this country with a myriad of diverse peoples, to share our perspectives and to listen to the perspectives of others. You’ve probably heard the old saying that there are always two sides to the story. I’m telling you that there are many sides to all stories. Your objective isn’t to get everyone to agree with your interpretations of a story. Instead, it is your responsibility to be humble to the perspectives of others. We are all living life, we are all seeing and experiences different aspects of this one existence that we share.
We will NEVER all agree to one side of a story. But the least we can do is share our experiences with one another, learn from each other, and work to make compromises.
The problem with what I said to that man is not that it is not true. The problem is that I was using that statement to end a conversation. Coming to a mutual understanding that there is merit on both sides should not be the end of the conversation. If anything it should be the beginning of another! One that should be sympathetic to each individual or group involved so as to peacefully work together to find compromises to these problems we face.
As cliche as it sounds, it’s when we work together despite our differences that our society will flourish.
About The Author
Rafael Herrera studied Preaching and Church Leadership at Johnson University. He works as a mobile notary, UBER Driver, substitue teacher, and is the founder of SymposiumSquare. When he isn't online reading too many news articles he's working on this website listening to "This American Life" or "The Liturgists Podcast."
Self proclaimed coffee connoisseur and amatuer videographer. Follow him on Twitter and other social medias @BigSalsa.
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