Apparently last Thursday was not just another Thursday for a young girl behind the counter in a Dallas coffee shop.
Her smile was wide and beautiful, but her voice hinted at something hidden behind her metallic barista nametag.
“How are you doing today?” I asked as she began pouring my coffee.
“Well, OK, I guess,” she said. Hesitation punctuated her words. “Actually, I’m nervous.” Her confession surprised even her.
“We get a new president tomorrow, and I’m not sure what is going to happen.”
Turns out she is a college student who also happens to be an African-American, worried about what the new administration might mean for America.
“I’m worried about things changing back,” she said.
She began sharing with me what friends and family were telling her about how the world would be changing with Donald Trump in the White House. She was nervous and concerned that the days of prejudice and ugliness would return.
Inside I hurt for the college student and I found myself wanting to relieve the pain she was carrying around with her. But I also knew there was no way for me to accurately appreciate or recognize the fears she carried. With decades between us, our worlds are different. She is African-American, and I am not. Her future is before her; mine is approaching the home stretch.
She has been politically aware of one president for most of her lifetime. Trump will put me near a half dozen. I also know Trump will be the 45th president and another will follow.
“Remember, there are over 300 million of us versus one in this equation,” I said, hoping to offer her something to hold onto. “Most of us in this nation are good people who are never going to let our country go backward to the very things you are worrying about. We simply won’t stand for it.”
I know the words I shared with her are true but also carry the heavy burden of others getting productively engaged if this thing gets off the tracks. We, as a nation, owe it to this young woman and others to not passively sit by while a government — regardless of who sits in power — attempts to reshape or attack the rights of others. I know I will not.
The barista looked up and offered me a broken smile.
“I hope so,” she said, her words trailing softy off.
I wanted to giver her a hug. I then told her while the world does contain a number of people who are truly ugly and cruel, the vast majority of Americans are good people. And those of us who know how far we’ve come to get where we are today will be damned if we let this nation go backward in regards to women’s rights and the basic freedoms extended to all regardless of race, creed or color.
And for the next four years I will be working to keep my word to the young college student.