My first brown friend.
I really want to share a story from my holiday. It is the tale of my newest friendship and it is also an eye opening experience, at least it was for me. His name is Al (Alkaif) and he is from New Zealand. I should add that he is also a Muslim. Not that it should matter, but it did.
We were sitting in the foyer waiting to join a tour of Spain when I noticed Al and his partner Soraiya across the room, because well, the rest of the group was pretty white and Soraiya was wearing a headdress. I'm not proud to admit that I definitely thought about how we would certainly not have anything in common with that couple and would no doubt avoid them for the tour. I was definitely being racist, even though I didn't think it at the time.
I can't even remember how we first connected, I think it was a conversation around food, but before we knew it Al and myself were commenting about how much we had in common. Our partners were talking similarly. It was funny just how quickly our friendship blossomed and conversations of visiting one another after this holiday.
What was really special about this, other than finding a new friend, was the opportunity to ask some pretty 'dumb' questions about their religion and the associated lifestyle. To see just how many similarities we had beyond differences. Really, other than not eating meat that isn't Halal (and just how simple it is for meat to be Halal) there wasn't much more to it. We were really lucky to hear stories about their own religious journey and it was especially eye-opening to hear Soraiya speak about her decision to wear the headscarf as a connection to her religion and not at all an oppressive thing.
I'm so happy about my friendship, firstly because I don't tend to make real friendships easily, but also because this one has already taught me such a special lesson. To be open to everyone and to try and check myself when I'm making assumptions.
Maybe we all just need to sit down and share a meal together.