As the red Honda pulled up behind my car, I was afraid I was blocking the road. Lucy and I were at my favorite sunset spot Tuesday evening and I had been taking pictures, so I decided I’d leave rather than be in someone’s way.
But as I opened the door to get back into my car, a heavily accented voice called out, “You don’t have to leave. It’s OK.”
I wasn’t sure at first what he meant or what he wanted, but he pointed to the sunset. And I understood he had come there for the amazing natural beauty being painted in the sky toward the horizon.
I find few people who make an effort to come watch sunsets, so we struck up a conversation about the beauty and about other spots nearby where there was a good view. He was clearly just as passionate about beauty as I am.
Gerardo Alvarez-Chavez is originally from Mexico City. He said he hadn’t had many opportunities for his future back in Mexico, so he had come here seeking a better like. He owns his own painting service, according to his business card.
We talked a little about people’s attitudes about immigrants. I asked him about what he had encountered from other people here — whether he had felt that there were some who didn’t want him here.
Gerardo said it’s true that some people are racists. He has met people who’ve treated him well and others who are racist and hide it, among both blacks and whites locally.
“But if you came to Mexico City, it’s the same,” he said. “There are good people and bad people everywhere. People are the same all over.”
We talked about the tragedy of how few people paid attention to the beauty we were watching together.
“They just go about their business and God is putting on a show around them,” Gerardo said. “I am thankful God makes this and gives it to all of us to enjoy. I wish more people would watch what He is giving us.”
As we stood in the colorful glow of God’s handiwork, we weren’t an American and a Mexican. We were simply two human beings who shared a deep appreciation for natural beauty and enjoyed finding someone else who felt the same way.
Gerardo and I might be from entirely different places. Our accents and native languages are different. Our ethnicity is very different.
But he and I had more in common with each other than we did the many nearby people who were ignoring what was happening in the sky. Our hearts and minds were in sync in their deep spiritual appreciation of natural beauty. Nothing else mattered.
It was another reminder to me of the absurdity of the artificial lines that politicians draw on maps and call borders. Gerardo and I were brothers for those minutes — sharing far more with one another than either of us had with the politicians who have always claimed to speak for us.
Cultures vary from place to place. Some cultures are better than others in certain ways. Some societies allow their people more freedom. Others are repressive because of controlling politicians or power blocs.
But humans are essentially human. Every individual should be free to pursue his future and his dreams wherever he wants, just as long as he respects the property and rights of other individuals.
That sunset — and the entire world — is just as much for Gerardo as it is for me.