As I do most mornings, I went to the gym the morning after the election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States. I was going up the stairs to the locker room and a black guy was coming down on his way to work out. We passed each other and our eyes met for just a moment. We nodded, exchanged a brief howyadoin and continued on our way.
But there was something different about our exchange now. We both knew it. In the space of even those few seconds you could measure easily just how much the world had changed. It had happened literally, overnight. In the space of a casual glance, an innocent pleasantry that happens without a second thought a million times a day between strangers, we both had an “aha” moment. Everything was different now.
It felt like getting a pair of new glasses. I remember when I would put a new pair of glasses on and the first thing I would see was how much I had been missing. The edges around everything were suddenly sharp enough to cut. The world is wavy in its clarity and your legs feel wobbly until your brain acclimates to the flood of visual information your eyes are feeding it. A new world bursts open and while the brain struggles to process it, the eyes can’t get enough. Everything is there in its glorious splendor and it’s all waiting to be seen.
With the election of Barack Obama, the country and the world have just gotten a new pair of glasses. We are all walking around now marveling for a moment at how much we were missing. New maps need to be drawn to accommodate this new territory. New assumptions need to be made about each other and most importantly, about ourselves.
In time, we will acclimate to the new world that has blossomed right before our eyes. The ground will firm up beneath our wobbly legs. But for now, every casual meeting is full of a spontaneous humanity and a marvelous potential. We have stepped out from behind the tedious roles of our history. We have lowered the familiar mask of expectation behind which our humanity is demeaned and dismissed and for this one moment at least, we have seen each other. Who are we now? What will we become? The question in all its glorious potential, is asked now even in a casual nod. A routine howyadoin?
This is where the work begins and yes, this is where the fun starts…