Can I tell you what joy looks like? I live in metro Washington DC and Sunday was one of those beautiful first days of spring with an enormous blue sky. It was a day where you get that first feeling of hope that comes from soul warming sunshine. The family and I had made our way into the city to attend an “Islam in Washington: Then and Now” lecture which we hoped would provide us with a deeper understanding of the rich cultural heritage of our home. Yes, the cultural heritage of our home. The first Muslim’s arrived in America in the early 1600’s. But I digress.
By the time we arrived the lecture hall was standing room only and the overflow rooms were at capacity so we never got to hear the lecture. We proceeded to go outside and find a bench on the National Mall and more or less people watch. It seemed as if everyone was out taking in the first best day of spring. I’ve lived in DC eight years now and I still see the world through the lens of my Iowa roots. At once what stood out to me is the diversity of this magnificent city. Literally everyone looks as if they had gathered here from far away lands. And I suppose they have. I didn’t happen to notice anyone apparently Native American.
I lost myself in the rhythmic cadence of so many other languages or at least the accents of so many who obviously had a first language other than American English. It’s a beautiful thing to hear. It makes you yearn to know their story. How did they come to be here? What had they left behind to find themselves in this place at this time? And the smiles. I suppose it has a lot to do with the sharing a glorious day with friends and family and being surrounded by the beauty of the monuments and Smithsonian buildings that border the mall. For this moment there were no protests. There was no political angst. We just were. And that felt liberating.
After some time I began to notice the children. Some were cutting up, some running around frolicking in the wide open spaces and others stuck closer to their parents in awe of the scenes around them. But what I noticed most was that many of the older generations of these families were adorned in more traditional cultural attire. Their children wore Blue Jeans with Abercrombie & Fitch, Aeropostale and Washington Wizards T-shirts. My favorite was the junior high aged girl walking hand in hand with her Indian mother who wore an elegant sari. The girls was proudly wearing a shirt that said, “Feminist” in bold letters across her chest. Some kids munched on Doritos and others sipped on Mountain Dew or Pepsi. How American. The notion of our great land truly being a melting pot was on display before me in all of its glorious wonder. And that gave me joy.
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