“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.” – Anne Frank.
I watched Whoopi Goldberg take over a Broadway stage and play out one of the most amazing characters I’ve ever seen; Fontaine, the career dope smoker. Fontaine, high and mellow, took us through his trip to Amsterdam, and through the preserved Frank Hideout where Anne and her family sat quiet from July 6, 1942 until August 4, 1944. Fontaine read the Anne Frank quote from a plaque on the wall in the Amsterdam hideout, and I held tight to them, carrying them with me everywhere, including in my pocket when I travel.
I travel often and share plates with others who do the same. I host many gatherings, and I talk to strangers daily. I believe people are good. The problem with growing up in a community that doesn’t trust easily is the shifty side-eyeing and constant questioning will stunt growth.
Several times I’ve driven across the U.S. with folks I met just hours or days before. I’ve picked up hitchhikers for conversation, and I don’t regret a bit of it. These trips led to a hundreds of new songs on my playlists, cheap tickets to Coachella, hours of valuable sleep, and lifelong friendships with a great amount of trust and respect at the foundation.
In Amsterdam I toured the canals with a then stranger, now friend, got drunk at a bar tourists would never find, talked about tattoos, life, and why I had no coat, and found myself waking up on a couch 12 hours later in an unfamiliar house many miles from the Amsterdam I knew with a a note that read “eat anything in the fridge, it’s all good. We’ve gone to work. Good morning. Leave key behind the painting on the hall. Great times.” Another stranger, now friend, cooked traditional dutch food to break my seemingly daily McDonald’s binge, and translated current news and music in his living room after telling me just about everything the Netherlands has to offer.
Prior to arriving in Marrakech, Morocco I was slightly nervous, unsure of what to expect with language barriers and religious beliefs of the natives against convictions of my own. I posted in a Couchsurfing forum, and Sigel responded. He met me at the cafe then we walked for hours we walked through the Medina, learning customs, cultural differences, pieces of the languages, and laughing about Marrakech prostitutes, thick women, and who’s really the boss. He took me and my new hostel mates/friends to his home where his brother and friends watched youtube and played local instruments, and we sat on the floor enjoying the laughs, and tunes. In a city where kids wait in dark corners to show you to a place just 2 feet away in exchange for 100DH, I was honored (for lack of better word) when Sigel walked away after a brotherly handshake and said, “hit me tomorrow, my man. I show you the girls, and help you find the things you want in the shops!”
Tawa, my Zimbabwean friend who makes me tea and porridge and offers me housing at no cost in London is a product of an amazing trust system that has yet to fail me. It’s a beautiful thing, I swear. Today, in the shower, I loudly said “I am so grateful,” as I’ve been saying since Montreal. I mean it each time. I get chills each time.
Though Anne Frank was dealing with a situation very much unlike any I’ve dealt in terms of travel, I find her words fit into all the holes. Believing people are good at heart allows me to approach almost anyone with a naivete, and they respond openly and amazingly most of the time. They smile when they hadn’t quite planned the smile, and say yes when they thought they’d say no.
I have more than one thousand of these stories. Perhaps I put something out there, and because the universe decided to be consistently decent with me, I get that something back. I’m good at heart, no matter what foolishness I’ve posted, and who it was about. My heart is pure, and though there are no selfless acts, I come as close to that as possible. Humbly, I say that.
I stopped trusting people who don’t trust people. Sounds strange, I know, but it makes perfect sense. There’s no room on the plane, in the car, on the boat for them. The hostels I love won’t fit their luggage and ignorance. The dark alleys won’t be as fun with them as they are alone.
Stunted we’ve become thanks to those parents who scare us into staying close to home because they haven’t dealt with their own insecurities perhaps. We miss out on the amazing and disgusting foods of the world, and our own neighborhoods even. The road trips to see the leaves change in Vermont, or to do shrooms and see God in a field in Montreal will never happen. You will look up at 75 and try to figure out what happened with your life, and why all your friends are dead, and why you aren’t.
People are good at heart. Trust them, be trustworthy, and live happily. Accept the wrongdoers as exceptions, and move on.