This is a true story.
Two Boy Scouts, both third graders, were volunteering at a park cleanup event. They were weeding the gardens and planting flowers and discussing the many Pokemon players wandering throughout the park. One of the people who caught their attention was a man, in his mid-twenties, with a foot-long lizard clinging to his shirt.
The boys were enthralled.
“Did you see that guy?” they whispered. “See his lizard? Check out that guy with the lizard! I wonder why he’s got a lizard with him in the park!”
One of the boys, the long-haired one, said, “Let’s go check it out! I wanna ask him about the lizard!”
A second boy shook his head adamantly. “No,” he stage-whispered. “No, we can’t go bother him. He’ll get mad. He doesn’t want to be bothered by us.” The rest of the troop held back. No one was willing to take the lead.
The long-haired boy responded, “But the guy literally has a lizard on his shirt. He is walking around the park with a giant lizard. He knows people are going to see him and want to ask questions. He wouldn’t be playing Pokemon with a lizard on his shirt in the park if he didn’t want to be noticed.”
And so the long-haired boy led the way. He went up to the lizard guy. The rest of the troop followed. “Excuse me, sir,” the long-haired boy said, “but can we see your lizard?”
The man smiled. He said, “Sure!” And he proceeded to let the boys pet the lizard while he told them all about it. The boys spent 10 minutes with the lizard guy, learning all about lizards and how to train them and feed them and hold them and exercise them.
When the boys came back to the gardening, they were chattering non-stop about the lizard guy and his lizard. “So cool!” they said. “His lizard’s name is Toothless!”
And an hour later, when they exclaimed that they had found a snake, the lizard guy overheard them. He came back over, helped them pick up the snake, and gave them another 10 minute education on garter snakes and their markings, their mating habits, their lifecycles, and how to help preserve their habitats.
This is a story about two boys, both Boy Scouts, with vastly different world views. How did they grow up to the wise old age of 9 with such different ways to function in the world? The long-haired boy is from a liberal family, raised without organized religion. The other boy is from a very conservative family, raised with strict adherence to religion. But both boys are white, middle class, with highly educated parents. Both boys have been raised with a strict moral code. Both boys have the world at their fingertips, and only need to ask.
Yet, this second boy, the conservative one, has been raised to fear. Fear the stranger. Fear the conversation. Fear the unknown. And his fear has caused him to misread situations and sense danger when none exists. He saw the lizard guy as a potential threat to be avoided. The long-haired boy, curious about everything and raised to see people as generally good and full of knowledge and experience, saw the lizard guy as an ally. An opportunity. A guy just walking his lizard, playing Pokemon in the park on a beautiful summer day.
The parable of the two Boy Scouts should give us pause.
How do we see the world? How do we see others? How do we approach them? When and why do we fear? What can we do to overcome this? And how are we raising our children?
If we live in fear of the unknown, we begin to see each other as dangerous. We avoid conversations. We avoid interactions. We live in our bubble of fear. And because of this, we will never meet the lizard guy and his lizard, Toothless. We will never learn about the garter snake and how they have babies and what they eat for lunch. We will never take the risk to talk to a stranger in the park and learn about his passions.
And we will live our lives shortchanging our own experiences.
Creating our own filter bubbles.
Afraid of the unknown.
Just think about what our lives—and our country—could be like, if we all took the opportunity and made friends with the lizard guy?