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Shared Experience: What I Ask Of You 

I have had to pray everyday. Ever since I learned of God’s ears, I have spoken to them. Words from my heart when my lips were empty, talks out loud from the driver’s side of my compact car. I have had to pray everyday, and I wonder if my rhetorical indulgence has created a stream of causes, causes to bring forth the effects of prayer… I pray for and about the people I love, talking to God about the things that I admire them for and the things that worry me for them. I pray that he hears their hearts when their lips cannot move. I pray for discernment, that I understand what to pray for and do not miss the point, distracted by and glorifying what may be my misunderstanding of what I call my wisdom. I pray that I do not get it wrong. The weight of love. I am no exception, but this is what I carry. 

The weight of love has always been heavy and sacred to me, demanding me to bear the understanding that comes from shared experience, the true definition of togetherness. “Carry each other’s burdens.” Paul said to the Galatians, and to us all. He understood that a family is not established on facial features and character traits, but on their shared experiences, experiences that allow them to relate and sow together what we know to be life. We can busy ourselves with the niceties of empathy, but more definitive and revealing are the realities of experience. We simply do not know what we do not know. So, it is our duty as mortal, thought-producing, free-will bearing, and yet, spiritual beings to carry each other’s burdens, to share in each other’s experiences, and not just beg our perspective to see what another sees, but walk our eyes over to the other side and truly see for ourselves. 

Share in my experience. Come by, see me in my home and how I commune with my neighbors and loved ones. Walk with me on the street my children take to school. Laugh with me. Let me cry and understand why. Share with me in my experience, as I have often had no choice but to share in yours, and am better informed for it. 

This is how I know what to ask of you… 

I used to work on a cruise ship. Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines’ Oasis of The Seas was in port in Fort Lauderdale, Florida the day my friend, a handsome Brit who was also my cast mate, and I ventured to Publix for our regular snack run. We did our shopping and joined a checkout line to pay for our things. The cashier was very talkative and polite to the patrons she was serving before us, so her rude glares in my direction seemed overt and misplaced. Reaching my turn in line, I approached the cashier greeting her with a hello. No response. I didn’t bother to care as I understood her intentions. She had by that point made them pretty lucid. I proceeded to pay for my things, handing her a $50 bill that I had just received from the ship’s payroll a day earlier. The cashier took the bill from me, looked at it and then held it up to the light. She stared at it meticulously, changing the bill’s angle as if she were trying to bring truth to some ancient myth. Not satisfied, she took out an authentication marker and drew several lines across Ulysses S. Grant. I asked her what the problem was and was met with, “I cannot accept this bill, it doesn’t look real.” I asserted, “It was real when it went through the federally accredited bank the payroll of the international cruise line company I work for received it from.” She called her manager. At this point the line had lengthened, as did this degrading spectacle. The manager came over and looked at the bill a bit puzzled by the cashier’s suspicions, but then asked me if i had another form of payment, when met by the cashier’s retort claiming the mythical illegitimacy of the money that I gave her, money she gladly received from my fellow crewmembers, who were paid from the same source I was, and who had purchased their items in her line without appeal. I told her, “Yes, the same money I was paid with and offered you was accepted by my nationally accredited bank, and is now in an affirmed account linked to this debit card, my alternative method of payment.” I failed to mention that if she did indeed find that the money I presented was counterfeit, it is her duty to take said money and report it to the police, which she did not do, as her claims would have been the only thing in question upon official review. How did this make me feel? Stained. Insufficient. Scorched, a literal and very tangible burning in my heart. I was hurt. I made my purchase and went to the bank across the street, recounted what I had just experienced as I sought professional advice on the legitimacy of the $50.00 I attempted to pay with. The banker told me that my money was clearly real, explaining why, and then told me I should report a complaint against the cashier. With no time left, due to a pending all-aboard my cast mate and I would have been late for, I chalked it up to another experience. Another experience of discrimination, degradation and public humiliation because of the color of my skin. I did not mention that the cashier was white, which she was, but no one ever really mentions that I am black, they just sometimes treat me differently, stand by while I’m being treated differently or are silent while I’m being treated differently, disgracefully. 

Share in my experience. Come by, see me in my home and how I commune with my neighbors and loved ones. Walk with me on the street my children take to school. Laugh with me. Let me cry and understand why. Share with me in my experience, as I have often had no choice but to share in yours, and am better informed for it… This is how I know what to ask of you. 

The real life metaphor… me through you, you through me.

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