ActiveMinds is new at UMSL this semester and our first tabling was a huge success, but it was in the last few minutes of the four-hour event that I felt the most impact. A gentleman that I will call N.N. (his initials) was delivering flowers on campus. I was almost packed up and ready to go when he stopped by to ask what our table was about, noting the sign on the front of the table read “Kindness Rocks.”
N.N. said he was an artist and I asked if wanted to decorate a rock. I handed him one of the bigger rocks and pointed him to the gold and silver markers — he laughed and asked if I was psychic because those were the colors he wanted. He drew a yin yang on the rock with the gold and silver, and asked if I knew anything about it. I told him that it’s about balance and he told me that’s true, but it’s about more than that. He said that typically the yin yang is done in black and white, with a little speck of black in the white and a little speck of white in the black. He went on to say that people were the same and if you go back far enough there’s black and white in every person. I laughed and told him that it was ironic that he should say that because my family had done the ancestry DNA and more than one close family member came back with a tiny bit of Africa in them.
Then he did something that really made me think. N.N. put his arm next to mine, pointed at one of my freckles and said, “see that’s the same color as me” and then showed me his palm. Even more powerful he shook my hand and showed me his hand with my thumb on it, equating it to the yin yang with the black side and a little bit of white and flipped our hands so that I was seeing my hand with his thumb on it. Finally he turned our hands so that our thumbs were both facing up and it resembled the overall yin yang symbol.
This brief interaction had such a profound effect because of the current state of the area that N.N. and I both live in. St. Louis has been riddled with conflict this year. I’m not going to get into the politics of it all because what matters is that during a time of extreme divide in our area, this wonderful soul and I shared a few moments where we were learning from each other and open to what the other had to say.
He made me promise to keep the rock he created and I will, but I will also use it as an example and a display of what beauty duality can create when they come together in peace.
Christy is a member of the Active Minds Student Advisory Committee and a chapter leader at University of Missouri at St. Louis.