I’ve been in Sydney the last couple of days, interviewing people about belonging and taking a writing course. When I travel — and this includes going to the local library or grocery store — I like to talk to people. I’m an extrovert in the sense that I come away charged and full of ideas and energy when I meet like-minded people, or different people who stretch my imagination and who, unwittingly, pull my mind towards thinking about something specific for days afterwards.
These are the types of flash human bonds that I seek out and thrive on. Often they give me a sense of hope and inspiration. They rekindle my belief in human nature.
On the way to the Sydney airport, I was chatting with my taxi driver. We talked about our families and what it was like to be an immigrant — him from India, me from Canada — the difficulty of finding belonging. Our friendly discussion led to me explaining The Belonging Blog. I talked with Sandhi about inclusivity, how I wanted to break down stereotypes of marginalisation and racism by presenting interviews of individuals from all backgrounds and languages and experiences, how I saw meeting people as a privileged opportunity for me to learn and become a better person.
Sandhi turned to me at a stop light, his dark eyes lit with openness and he seemed to radiate genuine human connection. He shook his head a little as if he couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
”I’m so glad to meet you,’’ he said. ”You are special. Not many people are like you.’’
Of course, I’m not special I protested, embarrassed. I’ve already learned so much and gained so much from writing about belonging, from interviewing, from writing with the refugee kids.
”It’s so good to know there are people like you trying to close the gap,’’ he said.
Ah close the gap. The huge unmentionable gap.
After saying good-bye to Sandhi, shaking his hand and wishing him the best, I check in and head to the Qantas lounge. It’s Saturday evening and the ebb and flow of travellers is busier than usual for this time. Except for a couple of Asian people, everyone looks like me: white, Anglo-Saxon heritage. The only people who are darker or appear to be visible minorities, are serving us and clearing our dirty dishes.