In this world of fake news and neo-xenophobia, it’s hard to hear voices encouraging cultural understanding through all the noise. Over the past month, I spent some time working in cafes, brunching and taking extra Pilates classes to work off the prosecco brunches. I came across some souls we can all learn from when it comes to understanding.

First – My Pilates teacher who has a mission to dismantle the practice of yoga. I’ll refer to her as “Retired French Ballerina”. To her yoga practitioners are like yogi bear – head in the clouds ignoring reality – so she calls them yogis. Yoga teaches that through meditation you can find deeper consciousness. But Retired French Ballerina feels that if yogis had a tighter core they wouldn’t need to meditate because tighter cores are self assuring. Hence automatic wisdom from having a fully engaged core. Yes, she spouts her mantras all through class so our classes are hmmm… interesting.

So one day a yogi/martial arts guru guy took the class and left her speechless – which takes a lot. This guy did the advanced version of all her exercises without effort. And to her annoyance he was meditating throughout the entire class. From that day out, Ms. Retired French Ballerina started incorporating mantras and gongs into the 100 exercise. She says, “if it works for him, maybe there is something to it”.

Conversation two – Grandad from the coffee shop. I sat next to him during a work from home day and noticed that he was listening to 2 Pac and Snoop on his phone without headphones.  We all love the no headphone  people don’t we? The next hour and a half he took the entire coffee shop through his 90’s hip hop and Beethoven playlist. I stopped my work and asked,  “interesting playlist?” Grandad – “Yeah, I don’t understand the rap stuff too much but I’m hoping I get closer to my grand daughter. She thinks I’m a nutter but at least she talks to me now”. He further volunteers without prodding,”Rap is violent, but there is lots of pain and neglect there. I sure hope she doesn’t feel that way. That’s why I think its important to reach our young people where they are. My parents thought jazz was the devil, what’s the difference here. What do you think? I had no idea what to say to that but managed a few words,  “I’m sure your granddaughter appreciates you for listening to her music even though she doesn’t show it.” he says, “Right, I guess so”, he didn’t look too encouraged. He finished his coffee in silence and got up and left without exchanging any further words with anyone. I truly hope that his granddaughter knows how much he cares about her.

Conversation Three – While eating brunch with a fellow American, our South African waitress stopped her chores to engage in a conversation about white privilege. As she was clearing away our plates, she introduces herself and says, “I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation.” She gave us some introductions and offered this, “first white people must acknowledge their privileged and only then will they realise the injustices of the world.” Double take…okay Ms. South Africa – talk more. She explains further,”White South Africans are long away from being race neutral but the painful conversation of privilege has started which is a long way from where the US currently is”. I really wanted her to be wrong but there is truth to that. The only thing I could add to her statement  is – If the news is evidence of a society’s racial consciousness, everyone seems to be looking past each other and closing themselves off into more insular groups. How could one group of people understand their privilege as it relates to others if they refuse to acknowledge others as they do themselves. Pain is pain and blood is red and we’re all apart of the same species.