My day began yesterday as a typical Sunday. I watched a morning news show and one piece that stuck with me was a discussion about the value of racial profiling when it came to identifying terror suspects. This just didn’t sit right with me. Alas, I carried on with my day.
When I discovered how beautiful the weather was predicted to be I couldn’t imagine staying inside attending to non urgent projects when I could enjoy the day with my family.
We asked the boys what they wanted to do and they elected to go to a park nearby. We loved the idea because it was both outdoors and would allow us to take our dogs Chloe and Joey along.
The playground was filled with children of all ages, sizes and color.
Connor climbed the ladders and descended the slides all the while pretending he was Spiderman.
Aidan fantasized about how he’d one day build a bigger and better playground complete with swimming pools.
Cathy and I found a picnic table beside the playground to sit and watch the kids play.
A boy named Omar
Just then a young hispanic girl approached and asked if she could pet Chloe. I warned her that Chloe was a jumper and loved to give kisses. She promptly picked Chloe up and received a face full of Chloe kisses.
Before we knew it other kids had come over to join her, a girl of African-American decent and a young boy with Asian features.
Why am I pointing out their ethnicity? Because I was recalling the conversation about racial profiling I’d heard earlier in the day. I recalled the insistence that there were people supposedly worthy of judgement and suspicion simply because of their appearance.
But as I watched these children all I could see was three children of different backgrounds, sharing a moment of laughter as they fussed all over Chloe who was enjoying every minute of it.
For a moment I gazed past the small group of children who had gathered around us and saw a small boy, perhaps about three years old who was just entering the playground. He appeared to be alone so I looked around for his parents and a saw a young couple sitting quite far from the playground. Their eyes were attending to the young boy as he explored the playground, he seemed unsure what to do.
His parents appeared middle eastern as his mother was dressed in a soft blue garment that wore like a dress. It had long sleeves as well as a piece that covered her head. Since we were so much closer to their son I decided to keep an eye on him. At this point Cathy was attending to the children who were playing with Chloe and offering them treats to feed to her.
The young boy noticed all of the commotion but wouldn’t approach us. He walked back to his parents and as soon as the gaggle of children around us decided to return to the playground he decided to approach.
As I saw him looking at us with his hands clasped together and a big smile on his face, I asked him if he’d like to pet Chloe. He nodded yes and walked toward her, his smile growing ever wider.
I warned him that she was a jumper but promised him I’d keep a tight hold of her leash so she wouldn’t jump on him.
As he got closer Chloe jumped up and down with increasing excitement. He reached for her and she licked his hand he burst into hysterical laughter.
I waved to his parents in the distance in some attempt to let them know all was well and his father waved back.
Before long I was holding a very excited Chloe so he could pet her and feed her treats without being overwhelmed with jumps and kisses.
So where was Joey this whole time? Joey isn’t the people pooch that Chloe is. He’s ten years old, quite anxious and much more reserved so he stayed close to Cathy. Cathy did invite the young boy to gently pet Joey and fortunately Joey obliged.
By then we decided it was time to get going so I rounded our boys up and Cathy asked the young boy to hold a lower portion of Joey’s leash to help walk him. Cathy used this as a means to walk the boy back to his parents.
Upon seeing this they arose from the picnic table they’d been sitting at and approached them. All the while the boy’s face had the biggest brightest smile as he helped walk Joey.
I watched from a distance as the man introduced his son, his wife and himself to Cathy. I saw everyone smile and exchange a few words before Cathy returned to us.
She learned that the boy’s name was Omar.
As I returned to the car I reflected upon the rich diversity of children we’d met that day and realized that I had engaged in a little racial profiling. Not in a way that aroused suspicion, but in a way that increased connection.
I saw that we had different complexions, but similar smiles. All of the children laughed, played and shared the experience of a small dog.
Lastly we were able to invite a small boy named Omar to share a similar experience while his parents, for their own reasons, chose to keep their distance. I hope in the end that in some small way we showed them that we were all there together. Sharing the same sunshine and laughter, enjoying our families in our community.
Thanks for being you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Brian R. King LCSW is a Relationship Breakthrough Specialist. His breakthrough strategies draw on his experience as a 24 year cancer survivor, adult with Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, A.D.D., the father of three sons on the autism spectrum as well as someone who lives on the autism spectrum himself. His books and seminars have garnered him worldwide attention for his innovative communication and relationship strategies.