The past few years since moving to Orlando I've had the immense pleasure of meeting people from all around the globe. I'd reckon I've made good friends with someone from every continent (excluding Antarctica, but I'm working on it). It has definitely expanded my mental horizons on the struggles and day-to-day life of the average person not in America. See, I grew up in a mostly white area of Baltimore and I had the gift of growing up with parents who wanted me to understand that there was more culture in the world and that no race is more superior than another. I was lucky. In the same instance, I grew up with children who didn't have the same parents as me. They grew up closed minded, absorbing the same opinions as their peers and parents. While my parents did a great job with me regarding that, I still didn't necessarily experience any exterior cultures to my very contained world. I then moved off to college to a significantly African American one. My opinions of other races to that point were pretty much of no existence one way or the other, but when I was immersed into a different world from what I usually experienced I made the decision to fully understand my peers, and not to dismiss the struggles of other races just because I wasn't affected by them.
After my year at college, I flew down to Orlando and had the great opportunity to work for Walt Disney World. Through this, I learned so much more about the current state of how things truly are in the world. I grew up thinking that everyone was like me (or at the very least what I try to be), kind to others, empathetic, and generally just trying to be the best person they could be. It's not till later we, as humans, learn that there is so much hate and prejudice in the world. What college did for me in regards to understanding the state of racial relations in America, working for Disney gave me the broader picture of the state of the world.
This leads me to the headline itself. After my time with Disney, I assumed I reached the extent of my global exposure. I made the friends I made from other countries and will cherish their lives and stories, but I thought that I would look back fondly and continue my life knowing just what I know. Then I had to find a job. That sentence won't have a deeper meaning because as a white man living in America, it wasn't hard for me to find an entry level job. But what did happen was that I was forced to accept my laziness for not having a car and find transportation to work. That's where Uber comes in. For the past year, I've taken Uber probably ten times a week and I couldn't tell you how many interesting experiences I've had with the app. You literally meet someone new, and with a wealth of experience in knowledge every time you step foot in a strangers car. I can learn more about the current state of the world than I ever did in a semester of lectures. In school, you learn the perspective of world events through the eyes of a professor living in America. In a short twenty minutes, I learned about the state of Egypt and how bad things truly are over there from a man who was born and raised in Cairo.
I have thousands of stories like this, but two that stuck with me were more recent rides. I talked to a man about how things were in general and how he liked Orlando (He told me he immigrated from Venezuela). He was a really nice guy, and friendly but he was very open about his experiences in America. If you're familiar with Venezuela, then you know not everything is good down there, so he went to Canada to study and to escape his financial and safety situation that was living in Venezuela. He earned his bachelor in electrical engineering and moved to the states with his family. He then proceeded to tell me how insanely difficult it was to find a job in his field as an immigrant. Now think of that. How insane is it that a person can't get a job in a highly sought after field because he got his bachelor's in a different country or because he immigrated from Venezuela? I have this man with an incredibly advanced set of skills drive me to an entry level job where I have better benefits? This is an easy bandwagon for the "they're taking our jobs" group of people to hop in, but think about this, America hasn't been an isolationist country in however long and we as a people used to be proud to call it a Melting Pot. The assumption that unemployment rates are high due to labor from other countries "taking our jobs" is preposterous and there are several other socio-economic problems in this country and that argument is the easiest to cling onto.
The last Uber experience I'll share with you was on Thanksgiving. I was going to the store and a very friendly Hispanic man picks me up and immediately wishes me Happy Thanksgiving. We proceeded to go to the store and I notice he had someone on speaker phone and explains that his wife was on the phone helping prepare for Thanksgiving dinner, and while she didn't know English she greeted me just as enthusiastically as the man did. The more I learned about this man, he explained that he had just had a child and couldn't afford to take a day off so had to work through Thanksgiving to pay his bills. He didn't blame anyone, or write off the country he proudly lived in, he told me what everyone says, but he truly believed "Gotta do what you gotta do." This just goes to show that everyone will have different perspectives, and the best we can do as a people is try to understand and empathize.
As my final note, this isn't a politically charged pro-Clinton or pro-Trump rant. My main message is that there's more to meet the eye, and if you don't understand something it doesn't make it scary or crazy. It gives you the opportunity to elevate your knowledge and understanding of the world around you. The greatest thing about life is free will, and you're free to believe what you want, and I'm not claiming that I have the ultimate understanding of racial relations, politics, or world events. We can learn a lot from people, so be kind, be understanding, and try to be the best possible you can be. Who knows, maybe I'll start a Facebook page called "Humans of Uber." Have a great week everyone, and I swear my article about Travis Scott is coming.