What This Society Lacks

26 Jul

Now this isn’t a political post, although it may have seemed to have started out that way in lieu of the title.

Yes it’s true that the American society lacks a lot of things, like maybe a nice and just legal system, but what I believe it lacks the most is the companionship that practically every other culture shares. Coming from Cuba myself, and having met quite a few friends from all over the world, I can honestly say that the American society is the only society set apart from all others. It isn’t due to only the fact that we here hog up most resources, but to the fact that this is seen as an individualist society, whereas everywhere else is more cultivistic. That is not to say that I hate this society or that I am less proud to be here because of it, it is just the fact that sometimes I get homesick because of it.

The other day I had the absolute pleasure of going to Starbucks with a friend and having a nice coffee break with her.  We were sitting by ourselves on a small round table with two seats that was just snug enough for us. We were seated here a mere table away from the next couple who was actually very close,the way this small Starbucks had the tables arranged. And as Americans….we enjoy nothing more than our personal space.

I must emphasize that in Cuba it is not like that, it is quite the opposite actually and that is something that has always been hard for me to understand and get used to. One can imagine that I have had a lot of faux pas in my past simply because I came too close to one’s personal space. Thankfully I now understand the norm better.

So there we were at Starbucks, waiting for our orders to be filled when this Lady comes in and sits down RIGHT next to us. The space is already limited and I must admit that at first I was very mad that she had taken THAT space.  I remember sitting there waiting for my friend to come back becaquse  she had just gotten up to grab something [seconds felt like minutes next to this stranger] and my mind was just FULL of prejudice and situational attributions! I would say stupid things like “yeah there goes another obese lady order Starbucks and a 1,000 calorie muffin that is going to join the tribillionbillion fat cells in her fat body”

*she sits next to my friend and I*

“oh great, there were plenty of tables and miss fatty had to just come squeeze next to us”

*my friend gets up*

“man…this is awkard…ok. Look away…just look…awa…y. drink your frozen calories that are no healthier than her muffin…and look…away”

*friend comes back*

After my friend came back, we had an engaging conversation, to which the stranger joined in. Up to now, I had been the most horrible person ever…in my thoughts…and had some serious plans to tell my friend about it later. However, pondering back on this whole event that turned out to be something that doesn’t happen often, I couldn’t believe how me…a college student , a member of the educated elite group of college students, majoring in psychology and law had these horrible, misconstrued thoughts about another simple human being. I felt sick to my stomach. I really did.

When the lady started talking to us, we humbly replied and thus a conversation was sparked. I made such a great acquaintance! I had the most fulfilling conversation with her; it felt as if we had been friends for years and years. And guess what…She turned out to be a very wise lady. She had been to law school, and majored in criminal law as I want to do, and gave me great advice. Harsh advice, but still great.  Strabucks closed, and we were still talking with this lady! [Her name escapes me unfortunately]. She was wonderful, she told us about her kids, about her childhood [which was horrible, poor child] she showed us the book she was keeping her thoughts in and in return we told her about us. About school, about our goals, and about our childhoods. Within a few hours we were ready to be bff’s! I told her about how I came from Cuba, and my friend mentioned her Puerto Rican background and the lady confessed to have thought we were sisters at first. This provably made me and my friend blush a little, after all I had only known her for a few months, and boy were we close!  We had so much in common that it was hard to believe, so she was naturally a shoe in for a close friendship. I was very pleased that someone had noticed.

By the end of the night, I think that we had all had a great time, and I at least felt as if not all was lost. At the end of the night, I was ashamed of my prejudices, and I no longer cared about personal space. I was content that someone had talked to me, I even felt glorified by the fact that a stranger felt like what two 20 year olds said was worth listening to. It was a great feeling. Almost the same kind of feeling I would get in Cuba.

I guess the lesson of it all is to take thoughts slow, our brains these days are hardwired to see and perceive, see and perceive….we need to slow it down, see, think, analyze, and perceive. We really need to get rid of prejudices as much as we can, even knowing full well that we can never get rid of prejudices completely.  Sometimes I just think that we could achieve that “community” feeling, by letting a little bit more people in, by sparking up a conversation with the guy on the subway, by talking up the next person in the elevator, maybe even that one person you’ve been thinking of getting to know better.

Where ever daily life takes you, whether its Class, work, or bungee jumping….i think there is always someone there, who will be worth talking to, just for the old fashioned sake of conversation. And I believe that there is always someone worth listening to.

Like my mom never fails to remind me, “the best advice I got was from someone who I never liked”, and I feel that everyone has a story, and someone is destined to listen.

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