Close Encounters of the First World Kind

Daily writing prompt
Describe a random encounter with a stranger that stuck out positively to you.

Religion and politics. To maintain civil conversations, steer clear of them. They are touchy subjects, especially in today’s current political climate. One day, in the waiting room of a Jiffy Lube, I talked about way more than I should have; but the participants in the conversation showed me way more about our society than the news media ever could.

A 50+- African American woman, an early 30s Hispanic American male with his young son, a 60+ white male farmer, and a 60+ African American veteran joined me, a late-thirties, conservative-leaning yet liberal Independent, in the Jiffy Lube waiting room on a warm Saturday morning. Internal dialogue from the topics we could hear from the low lull of Fox News that came from the speakers of the 40-inch flat screen that hung on the wall behind the checkout counter filled all of our minds, but the Hispanic male started the conversation with an under-his-breath comment. “The only gun control I need is controlling my AK from my closet.” It made our eyes shoot at him and back down to our phones or laps. The Veteran spoke up next, ‘I served in the Army for 22 years. The only thing I want to carry is a golf club.’ Some of us snickered, but the Hispanic male responded, ‘You don’t know how many times I get stopped just because I’m a Honduran with tinted windows on my truck. Then I got to explain why I have guns in my back seat.’ I chimed in with my own story of being profiled by the police.

Our conversation continued. We shared our opinions, even though it meant that we sometimes disagreed. We each talked until the store manager came to check us out one by one. During our time in the waiting room, we discussed uncomfortable topics and were able to see things from other people’s perspectives. We discussed religion, Trump, abortion, gun control, and many other topics that sometimes made us squirm in our chairs.

When it was the African American woman’s turn to check out, she stood up, looked at us, and said, “This is what America needs to do. Talk. Thank y’all for this today.” Knowing what we had just experienced changed my perspective. I need to bring up uncomfortable topics. I also need to realize that there could be differing opinions on the other end of the conversation. The biggest thing we must remember is that a conversation is reciprocal. We must listen just as much as we talk. Conversations create a connection that allows us to see different perspectives and viewpoints. Hearing these different perspectives and viewpoints challenges us and shifts our own opinions.


Jiffy Lube lobby images. Fair use.

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