"Is he a king?" Our three-year old asked.
"Could be!" My husband replied with a smile.
She was inquiring about a homeless man. Large in stature, he wore layers of blankets around his neck like a scarf. A beard adorned his chin and his beanie stood high on his head, much like a crown.
I want to be like my daughter in many ways. My husband and I have been careful in the way we speak about others in front of her, especially about those who may be seen as different from us. This moment, the moment she regarded a man others may avoid as potential royalty, was meaningful. She saw humanity. She saw something great.
I wish I could say I am without fear of the "other." In my heart, I see all people as valuable beyond measure. But my hesitation and fear is exposed in minor flinches when I brush up against someone I feel is too different for my comfort. Sometimes I'm not sure if I feel like I'm in danger, or if I will be perceived as threatening or weak to another. I would like to be brave, welcoming, relaxed. But I am fearful and analytical by nature. At 30 I'm sorting through all of this. I want to know why it's so easy to view people as "other" — where along the line I lost the ability to see kings and queens among us.
My favorite Buddhist teachers often express the benefits of dwelling on mankind's shared human experience. When we see ourselves as linked to each other, our lives are fuller, happier, blessed. Additionally, when we see ourselves as more similar to our neighbors, our burdens feel lighter, feelings of isolation fade, and we gain an altruistic outlook.
At the end of the day, our shared humanity outweighs our differences. Most of us feel strongly, avoid pain, and pursue pleasure. Most of us crave love, to be known, to have a purpose in the world. Maybe this idea of the "other"was something fear taught us along the way. A construct built to divide.
I look to the man my child regards as regal. His eyes, shining. His voice, mighty. How did I not see it before? I had much to learn from this man. I have much to learn from my daughter. I have much to learn about royalty.