After I leave work I usually go for a forty-five to an hour walk around DC. I do this to become more familiarized with the city and to be outside while the weather is still nice. Plus I love to take pictures so I'll usually snap some with my digital camera (making everyone think I'm a tourist eventhough I'm not). Anyways, after the nightly walk I hop aboard the train and then catch my bus back to my apartment. Usually by this time I'm getting tired and am ready to proceed home, but wait.. I still have a walk to my apartment, for the bus stop is at the very front of the entire property complex and my building is all the way at the back. So then I walk another 5-7 minutes to my place. Up and down a hill, through various townhouses, by the park, and past the pool. It's a really nice little walk actually. Usually nothing exciting happens while I'm walking home but last night something did.
I enter the building through the back because that's the side my apartment is on. Well I usually see the various other units on my way in and sometimes I see people out on the patios either eating or just enjoying themselves. Last night I spotted this cute little Asian girl. She's probably about 3 and I've seen her before. I think she lives a few floors below me. Anyways, I've always just seen her looking out the window and a few times she's waved. One time before she ran up to the window to see what was happening and then started to get really excited and gave me multiple waves. Well, I hadn't seen her for a few weeks and last night she reappeared. I was lost in thought and not really paying any attention when something caused me to look up and I see her apartment. This time I notice not only her but her mom, and her sibling, whom mom was holding. Mom and baby were looking in the opposite direction but the little girl saw me and waved. So naturally I wave back but then she does something completely unexpected... she gives me a bow. Up, that's right, a bow. I was completely surprised and happy at the same time. Why you may ask? Well let me tell you.
This little girl has no idea who I am, and I don't know her either. Yet, for some reason she not only gave me a very American welcome (waving of hello) but she shared with me a welcome from her culture, the bow. Well I bowed back(though I'm not too sure of the traditional bow so I improvised). She was delighted and went running back to her mom, but not before she bestowed upon me one final wave. So as I proceeded further into the building and ultimately up to my apartment I began to think about why that little Asian bow had caused me to smile, to laugh, to feel welcomed. I realized it's because it's freely and innocently given. There was genuine warmth behind that bow. A child hasn't been tainted by the world or taught what is polite. They are impulsive, fun, and enthusiastic. They don't care what's right in a situation; they do what's bursting inside them to do. So she gave me a bow, and I gave one back. Such a small thing, I know, but it really did make my night.
However, this little Asian bow wasn't my only cultural learning left for me last night. I learned another lesson on hospitality from my neighbors across the hall whom are also Asian. I have a friend who is currently stationed in Japan and he's mentioned how he's always having to change shoes for various reasons. I've wondered since then what that looks like and how it works. I saw it last night. As I was walking to my door a nice Asian gentleman was knocking on his door to let his wife and kids know he was there (his arms were full of groceries so he couldn't open the door). Well, as the door opened I saw littered on the hard floor that makes up our hallway rows and rows of shoes. Then, next to the shoes were all these slippers of various shapes and sizes. I saw the dad take off his shoes and then put on the slippers. I was actually quite amazed by this entire process and he saw me with this astonshied look on my face and gave me a very nice warm smile. A smile that shone from his eyes, one full of warmth and friendliness. Again, a small, simple display of welcome but it meant a lot. Especially because many people would be upset that I saw into their apartment or wouldn't have given me the time of day. Then again, it's amazing what a little Asian bow can do for you.
So aside from me giving a horrible bow to a three year old I learned a little lesson about acceptance. Hopefully you to can experience a simple little bow.