I did not work there long, or have a job there with prestige. But I remember saying yes, to the minimum wage paying raffle ticket seller position with the Dodgers Foundation because of a single quote. As I walked down the hall after the group interview, I saw it. “A life is not important except in the impact it has on others lives.” ~Jackie Robinson.
It was actually my favorite quote from my childhood. In high school, volunteering in service to others was the hallmark of my extracurriculars, and theme of my commencement speech. In college that translated to political and environmental activism. In my 20s it became the basis for co-founding the Philadelphia chapter of Street Soccer USA and why I chose to become a campaign organizer for the OFA. Now, this quote was staring me in the face challenging me to swallow my pride and fear of the unknown and just help the Dodgers Foundation in any way they needed so they too could impact others lives. My heart swelled on the walk home. Most of my 30s were spent too far away from this quote. I had lost my way but his words again found me.
For two years, week after week, home game after home game, I’d rush from my daytime job at the hospital to my raffle ticket seller job, not sure when I actually slept but the energy was endless. The experience brought me back to my center.
Now, a couple years have gone by and 2020 has changed all our lives, irreversibly. The quote lives on however. The reasons behind it unfortunately are all too serious in light of the world we are living in. I have thus far lived a life mostly cocooned from the realities of being a person of color. Growing up in a black and white world, I was able to observe the lives of my classmates and peers, not belonging in either, a bystander to both. I was bullied and tormented, made fun of endlessly in those uncomfortable middle years between elementary and high school, but so were many others, regardless of color. It was more about being obvious about being different. Rich kids naturally belittled poorer kids. “You got those jeans at Sears.” Cue the laughter. “Where did you get that purse, Payless?” Cue my tears. I didn’t have more than one moment of color shock – and that was in first grade when my white friend took my hand and pointed at my fingernails saying they were the color of her skin. The mean kid who coined the phrase, “red dot special” thinking he was being clever referring to the discounts at the grocery store us middle income kids shopped at, and to the Indian forehead decoration, turned out to be mean and cruel well into his 30s, starting many bar fights and drunk driving till he nearly killed someone. His bullying had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with his own insecurities.
But, times have changed. Those years seem innocent now. Racism was less open and “acceptable.” No one ever made me feel physically unsafe because of the color of my skin until this summer when I was spat on. I wondered what life would be like had I grown up with this type of fear every day. Shivers down my spine.
I never had to be more than an ally. I’ve had plenty “teachers” of all colors along the way showing me glimpses into their worlds. Someone recently told me how incredible our position on the color spectrum is – Indians are the ultimate “relators.” I haven’t quite figured out what that chameleon-like life ultimately means for me, but I hope to incorporate Number 42’s “A life is not important except in the impact it has on others lives” into it.