Honouring International Day of Peace, 21 September 2021.
When I was a young man, I visited the family of school friends and proudly showed off my latest purchase: a (very second hand) Toyota car. Although their father said nothing verbally, I somehow detected an immediate change in his body language: he tensed up, and became somehow guarded and subdued. Nothing was said, but I sensed his discomfort, and realised that his war background (as a POW in Changi) made him uncomfortable regarding Japanese culture and branding. He was careful to never verbalise bigoted or racist ideas, but he clearly had an underlying background trauma connected to his wartime experience.
Some short years later, when I was again visiting the family, he took me to his garage and proudly showed off his latest purchase: a Mitsubishi vehicle. Again, nothing was said, but he was clearly keen to show me not just his new car but the personal growth that it represented. He had learned to think beyond his trauma, and come to accept and respect people from another culture and heritage with whom he had previously felt a grounds for grievance.
He is long gone, but he represents for me a human being who demonstrates our finest potential and our greatest challenge: to think beyond our limitations, wounds and barriers, and find the common humanity in us all.
© 2021 Geoff Allshorn