Sunday, January 16, 2011
An Open Letter to the Anonymous Man on the Bike
To the anonymous bike rider,
Greetings of Peace!
You may remember us from Saturday morning. I was the Jewish guy in the round hat and the long coat. I was walking with my daughter, the one with the curly reddish hair. We were just over the bridge headed toward the lake when we met you, well kind of met you. Its our Sabbath and we were on the way to synagogue. We don’t drive so it gives us time to talk and solve all the world’s problems. A whole bunch of bicycles passed us in a big group. I think you were just about the last in the pack. As you turned the corner and rode past us you shouted “Free Palestine!” (I found out later that you have done that before to other religious Jews on other Saturday mornings in the same neighborhood.) I joked to my daughter, that to give you the benefit of the doubt, maybe you believe that either my daughter or I are superheros (my daughter could be, I for sure am not) and you figured that we could free Palestine with our superpowers right then and there. Ok, sadly its not so simple but at least your heart would be in the right place. But, as generous as it is, its an unlikely hypothesis.
Lets face it, what you really wanted was to piss me off. Granted, maybe it’s a fair bet. A lot of Jews probably would be upset at the message itself. (Though, you might want to get a field guide to Jews because guys with round black hats and long shiny coats don’t tend to be real political and are often not Zionists at all.) So you were pretty sure this was going to make the Jewish guy angry. Well, you were right but for the wrong reason. Having never met me or spoken to me in our lives, you simply assume that I am a rabid nationalist (I am not) or that I do not want peace and freedom for Palestinians (I do.) Instead of seeing my daughter and I walking and enjoying each others company on their way to pray to G-d, you see a cardboard cutout of your favorite villain at which you can feel free to toss your bumper sticker message like a verbal grenade and run away on your bike. Yeah, I am angry at you, not because you support the cause of Palestine but because in the way you communicate to me you demonstrate that you don’t see ME at all. You don’t see my daughter at all. You are interested in scoring points and not in communication. That makes you part of the problem instead of part of the solution. How much longer do you think we can afford the luxury of talking past one another? How much longer do want to keep dehumanizing each other? Next time, do us both a favor and get off your bike and talk to me. It’s the courageous thing to do. Had you talked to me you might have seen that I am not your enemy, you might have seen that my daughter is one the kindest people you will ever meet and you might have had a forum on this blog to communicate your thoughts with all sorts of people, people who might actually be able to hear you.
The Baal Shem Tov taught that everything one experiences in life has a positive lesson for the service of G-d. I did learn something from you. You were working pretty hard on riding that bike, and yet as busy as your body was peddling, the cause was on your mind and the very moment you saw me the words leaped from your lips.
Ribbono Shel Olam (Rab ul Alameen), no matter how hard I work in this world, no matter how hard I spin my wheels, let my thoughts never stray far from You and may Your great Name always be on my lips. May Your praise leap from my mouth the moment I see the beauty of Your creation. Give peace and purity of heart to my new teacher, the anonymous man on the bike.
Kol tuv (all the best)
I hope we talk soon