When I was in high school, our football team was in the playoffs. We took buses down to East St. Louis, IL from Buffalo Grove, IL. We were all warned about not driving on our own as the game was not in a safe area. There was a lot of violence and we could get hurt if we attempted to go on our own. The fear was being driven into us, but at this point I was remembering my downhill bike ride and the lessons fear had taught me. We opted to go in the buses.
We left very early in the morning as it was a 6 hour drive and the game was at noon. By the time we arrived at a hotel parking lot near the stadium, I saw several police cars waiting for us. Soon I understood they were going to escort us to the field for the game. Now fear was getting real. Everything they told us must be true. Probably even worse than they made it seem.
As we left the hotel and got closer to the stadium, I began to feel like a fish in a fishbowl. Only I was the fish and the bus was the bowl. People on the streets were staring at us the the police sirens sounded and lights on top of the cars cast spurts of blue flashes. We approached the stadium and saw the other side of the field with stands full of people who didn’t look like us. I knew things were not like anything I knew when I saw the railroad track that went through the back of one of the endzones. As we got off the bus we were told to be safe and stay on the visitors side of the field.
As the game started we heard the home team’s fans cheering in a way that we had never heard before. It was almost like a song but not a type of music that I was aware of. It was intriguing. Soon, some of their students would make their way around the field and come in front of our bleachers to perform a cheer/song about their team. They were so confident, so friendly. Me and a few of my friends chatted with them. They invited us to come over to their side and do a cheer for our team over there.
It was amazing to me for as fearful as I was made to be of them, how little fear they seemed to have for me. We decided to take them up on their offer and accompany them back over to their side. We walked around the endzone with the railroad tracks and I asked if trains came through. I was told there would be one right around 2pm and the refs know to stop the game for the couple minutes the train makes its way across.
We ended up spending almost a quarter in the home team’s stands.
Once we were willing to show that we felt as much at home as they did by doing a cheer, not nearly as songful as theirs, they invited us to come up and meet their friends. We shared what our schools were like, what the neighborhoods were like and the more we shared about the differences, the more we found we had in common.
Imagine if we stopped letting fear hold us back from meeting people who aren’t like us. What could we learn? How much broader would our knowledge be of different neighborhoods and different cultures? What if we reminded fear that just because something is different, doesn’t mean it’s dangerous. What if we reminded fear that just because we are told something doesn’t mean it’s true?
This is a topic I'm excited to discuss during Connected Educator Appreciation Day about overcoming obstacles. We have a great group of people who will share their experiences and insights. Come join us or leave a comment with your questions or experiences.