Today, while walking (the abnormally far distance) to the bus in moderate rain, a stereotypical gangsta rolled up next to me in his Mustang, music thumping (lyrics chanting about firearms and various drugs), and asked if I needed a ride. I was caught very off-guard, and with little time to think about it I said "Sure!"
I got in and his extremely aggressive driving immediately made me a little worried I wouldn't make it to school that day. He pulled in at the gas station and said he needed to buy some cigarettes. After he came back out he got in, turned the music up even more, drove as fast as ever, and lit up a Marlboro. Note I don't smoke, and I try to avoid smoke for health reasons, not to mention there is good evidence that smoking while driving increases accidents. I was uncomfortable. This was in no way a normal situation for me. But despite these feelings, the world is a better place because I got in that car and stayed.
Racial tensions in the country are still a bit high, especially in the Midwest. I'll be honest, Midwesterners are sweet, and kind, and inviting, but the racial divide is much more blatant than out West. The choice that this man made to offer me a ride showed his willingness to surpass the tension between blacks and whites, especially considering the striking stereotype both of us convey. By accepting his offer I helped him continue the feeling of trust for people different from himself, and I validated his desire to be kind. It can be a great service to accept the help of others, it helps them become the people they desire to be.
I am now very happy to have had to opportunity to accept this disconcerting ride. I am now a better person for sacrificing some comfort (and possibly - but hopefully not - some health) in order to have a friendly relation with someone from a very different demographic. I am also filled with hope for humanity, that in fact the current tensions between people of differing races, or income classes, or geographic locations can be transcended, that we can work toward the goal of being of one heart and one mind, with no poor among us.
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I'm the cofounder of a fintech startup