Sometimes ,the biggest lessons of life are learned or revealed to us in the simplest of ways. After a busy weekend, we found ourselves in a family restaurant of no special distinction. It was already past 8pm. We were promptly seated and had ordered our food when two families occupied the tables to each of our side. We were in the middle, and they had a view of each other across from us.
The family seating to our left was an elderly couple who looked like any older Caucasian couple. Mom looked someone who would be your favorite school teacher or even principal. Dad looked like some officer in a big corporation. They had two children with them who were both African Americans, and not the light skinned ones, but very dark and unmistakenly adopted. These family set ups no longer surprise me in a country which flaunts their adopted children to show people that “family” still matters to many. I have admired the Caucasian families who have adopted Asian children — but this couple deserves twice the recognition for reaching out to the less fortunate and needy children within their own shores — and there are a lot of them who need caring and loving homes. (Lesson 1)
The family on the other side was your All-American Caucasian family. Mom was lugging a baby, with her was a daughter probably around 8 years old, another son around 10, and a teenage boy. I could hear Dad but couldn’t see him. We were in a hotel with a restaurant where children eat free, and none of them ordered any food for the adults, but the children had their fill. The adults picked on the food of the children, sometimes even going to the buffet table themselves.
The little girl was seated with her back to us and the older couple with the two young African American children, but she turned around and stared. My own son was curious about the noisier and animated bigger family and was starting to look and stare, but I pride myself in having trained him to listen when I tell him it’s not polite to do that, and he would obey even with just a simple look from me. Apparently, not everyone is so inclined. I didn’t notice until the mother with the two African American children noticed that the little girl from the all-Caucasian family was staring at them because she very obviously eyed them all as she went to and from the buffet table. Even I eventually noticed it — and I could hear the Caucasian mother telling her African-American children not to mind her. I could see she was irritated but she held up very well, probably because she was used to this kind of bigotry even in this country that prides itself with the maxim that everyone is created equal. (Lesson 2)
The all-Caucasian family eventually stood up, not asking for the check, even if there was a charge for adults eating from the children’s buffet. I guess they figured that as kids are supposed to eat free, if none of them ordered from the menu, then they will not be charged. (Even as they themselves went to the buffet and ate..) Maybe they don’t know that the premise of the “kids eat free” bit is that it is presumed that there were adults ordering food. We didn’t stay long enough to see if the restaurant staff noticed. We stood up after the Caucasian family did. It’s another way to view how “Ignorance (can be) bliss.” Or at least pretending to be ignorant, that is. (Lesson 3)
It was sad to see how the young girl eyed the mixed family with such a strong sense of unease. I pity her for seeing differences in color instead of seeing people for who and what they truly are. I felt proud, though, that I know my son is growing up to be more broadminded than her — and that he will see the differences as something that does not make one better than the other — but something that makes each of us unique.
Angelo still has his moments — but I’ve always boasted to friends how we never had to give up dining in good restaurants even when he was younger, because he had always been well-behaved for the most part. He’s done his share of staring, but he listens when I call his attention to it. He doesn’t quite see the differences in color maybe because he himself is of a different color and to him that’s just “normal” or “ordinary”. And that’s how I’d like to keep it..