Everyone has a purpose in our lives. Sometimes, it would seem like people only exist to anger us or annoy us. But there’s a purpose to why they’re there.
Or, maybe we retroactively assign the purpose.
Whatever the case,
There’s a take-away from each account.
Sometimes those people are only people in our lives because we passively encounter them in public. We may never say a word to them, or even look directly at them. We might only overhear a comment they make, and then they move on. That moment might be the only moment in all of history that we are near that person, never to see them again. But what they say, we might hear it. And it might stick with us. And if it angers us, it might become fuel for us.
Today, I am writing from Phoenix. It is currently 106F. Hot, yes, but not as hot as it gets in the summer here. To be honest, I like the heat. I think it’s because I’m always cold. People pull me out of the sun constantly, saying “Stand in the shade!” I just say, “I sit in the shade too much. I need this.” It feels good. It makes vitamins.
I miss the forests. I miss the moisture and the greenery. I want so badly to swim, but there are very few rivers or lakes to swim in. The absence of these things really tear at me.
But I also love the desert. I love its resilience. I love the chemistry of its skies. I love its living geology. Its biodiversity becomes so much more evident to me as I drive from the Chuska Mountains to the Sonora Desert. Elevation has an incredible effect on beings. We must adapt to our environments.
Unless you’re a human in Phoenix.
At lunch, I overheard a conversation about weather. The man beside me was complaining about the cold. He insisted living in cold weather was illogical and nearly impossible. It was too much work to shovel snow off a car. It was too cold to warm back up again. All you needed to do was live where it is hot, run some air-conditioning, and feel comfortable.
This person, I might never see him again. I never looked at his face, just his right shoe. I don’t know his name. What I do know is that he has no regard for the environment, no concept of the climate crisis, no idea of how social status affects one’s access to things like electricity and climate control. Based on his comments during the conversation, he lives in Phoenix because he lives in an isolated, indoor environment, completely detached from the reality surrounding him in the environment, on tribal lands, and on the international southern border. The woman across from him even described a friend of hers as being someone “interested in environmental rights or whatever you call it”. Like, what?
This person could easily mean nothing to me, but was he really without purpose? Whoever he is, he did contribute in one way or another to my view of Phoenix, of Arizona, of the United States, of the world. It is a valid point that people don’t understand that air-conditioning is no global solution. It is true that these people don’t realize the seriousness of living the way people live in Phoenix, the heart of a desert enclosed by tribal and park lands to the point that its growth is severely limited without infringing on environmental and/or indigenous rights.
Sometimes, we have to overhear the ignorant comments and conversations. Without them, we wouldn’t know where to make corrections. We wouldn’t know how to identify progress. We would be stagnant.
In a way, strangers represent an entire population. The majority of a population will likely always be strangers anyway. It’s the ideas they have, the things they think and say, and their inability to see through other perspectives that become my concern. That’s where I see the importance of strangers to my career path and my life. Without these strangers demonstrating street ignorance, I might not realize the severity of such gaps in perspectives and understanding of critical topics.