The stripes on a zebra can teach us a lot about living together. When you study the pattern of stripes, there is no way to declare that one color came before the other, or that one is superior. Instead, the pattern of color protects the zebra from the lion’s predatory eyes.
Why can’t we live like that? In unity with each other, no different or better, just sharing the same space.
It reminds me of how young children interact with each other. It doesn’t matter if one is black and the other brown or white. Curiosity and joy provide the connections.
Have you ever watched a toddler look at another child his age? Both pairs of eyes lock onto each other, exchanging energy. What would that conversation sound like?
What Do Toddlers Think of Each Other?
“Hey, you over there! Look at me!” Andrew was throwing his hands in the air to grab the attention of that other being about five feet away. He arched his back in the neon colored stroller to get a better look.
Andrew was 15 months old, big for his age and curious about everything and everyone. His blue eyes shone with the light of love, unless he was angry. Then they turned a deep, dark blue that reflected the storm of emotion he felt inside.
In this moment, he was focused on that other person who was about his size. The other boy glanced over at Andrew and their eyes locked. He turned toward Andrew and away from his mother, who was talking with another mom.
Andrew stayed still and calm, sending thoughts to the other boy to come over so they could be together. As he walked on unsteady legs towards Andrew’s stroller, his mom realized that he was no longer leaning against her. She stood up quickly, a small tingle of panic in her voice.
The boy heard the sounds that he had come to associate with himself, and turned around, back towards his mother. The movement threw off his balance and he landed on his bottom, well padded by his diaper. He looked up at his mom to see her reaction, which was horror.
Demetrius knew what to do next. His face scrunched up until his eyes disappeared, and his mouth became a huge hole in his face. His next breath was deep and full-bodied as he let out a scream of pain.
Andrew watched this entire exchange with intense interest. He could tell that Demetrius wasn’t really hurt. He could also sense that Demetrius started screaming because his mother expected him to react that way.
Andrew’s mother patted him on the head. He knew that her way of telling him it was O.K., but Andrew didn’t want comfort. He decided to support his new friend. Crying was as easy for him to turn on as it was to laugh.
Andrew’s voice added a higher note to the wails coming from Demetrius. Both mothers looked at each other and connected in their shared motherhood. Andrew’s mom unstrapped him from the stroller to gather him up in her arms, but Andrew took advantage of the opportunity and slipped free.
Still crying, he toddled over to Demetrius, who immediately stopped crying and arched to be let down. He managed to wiggle free and the two boys stood face to face, looking at each other.
Tears were still running down each face, but curiosity had taken over. Andrew smiled at his new friend and reached out to touch the wetness on Demetrius’ face. Demetrius stood still as Andrew explored his face.
It was a touching moment. A small, white hand gently tracing the wet path of a tear on smooth, dark skin.
Time stood still. Both mothers watched, holding their breath at being witness to such a tender moment.
The boys were locked in the energy of their own dance. Demetrius reached out and touched Andrew’s face, feeling the wet of his tears. He brought his hand back to his mouth and tasted salt. Andrew did the same thing and they both started jumping and dancing as only toddlers can.
With abandon. With joy. Encased with love.
If it was possible to hear what they shared, it might go something like this:
“You’re O.K., right?” Andrew confirmed what he already knew.
“Of course! I just gave my mom what she expected to see.”
Andrew smiled. “I know what you mean. I get more hugs that way too!”
The two boys stepped closer. Andrew looked deep into the dark eyes of Demetrius and asked, “Is it OK if I touch your face? I have never seen your color skin before.”
Demetrius agreed, and added, “As long as I get to touch your face. I have never seen your color skin before either!”
The exchange happened as described, with these added thoughts (again, without words).
“Your skin feels different from mine,” Andrew said in awe.
“So does yours!” Demetrius smiled at this new game. “Why do you think he made us so different?”
Andrew was still lost in the feel of his friend’s skin. After a moment, he answered. “Maybe it’s to see what it’s like to be human with different skin casings!”
Demetrius giggled. “It’s like my box of crayons. I can choose to draw with any color and what I create is totally different.”
Andrew clapped in excitement. “I am going to start using the black one more often!”
How You Can Join Us
This imagined exchange happens all the time, but we aren’t aware of it because of the beliefs that we have formed over time. Babies and toddlers are not yet formed in their beliefs, and accept others without reservation or doubt.
Just like the stripes on a zebra! Black and white are side by side, co-existing as one.
Imagine a world where we see each other as humans, not as this race or from this country. Living heart to heart, the problems of the world would be solved quickly and efficiently. Living human to human, the world would spin with a joyful and exuberant energy that touches everyone.
Children of Team Earth is a story photo and video project designed to connect people from any culture, race, religion or country as humans, heart to heart. We asked children from different countries about their vision of the world and what they can do to make it happen.
Their answers are innocent, surprising and spot on.
Photo Exhibit in Miami on February 6, 2019
To raise awareness around COTE, we are going to display the photos and stories as an art exhibit! The Wynwood Garage in Miami is the setting; the people behind this project are the hosts. You can buy tickets here.
All money raised by sale of the $20 tickets will benefit Lotus House, a non-profit committed to ending child and family homelessness in our country. They advocate for the human right and dignity of every child, every family, to a home, as essential to their well-being and prosperity as food, education and health care.
Even if you don’t live in Miami, you can still buy tickets. Donations are a beautiful way to show your support (www.gofundme.com/childrenofteamearth).
The children of the world (and the zebras) thank you!