This morning before work, I took my dog for a walk. While I was there I crossed paths with an older African-American gentleman. We’ve crossed paths before at this same park. We always speak. This time though, I decided we needed to walk together and talk together, so we did.

Mike told me today was his birthday. He’s now 62 years old. Standing around six feet tall, a 2008 heart attack survivor, he shared with me how he wants peace in the world and how, over the years, racial tension has distracted America and allowed sneaky countries like Russia to infiltrate us. He’s not wrong ya know. I too believe that type of thing is real. I asked him questions about the history of Birmingham, where he was born and raised. He told me stories. We also talked about how people do things that are indicative of racism, but they don’t realize it.

He told me stories about terrible, horrifying things he saw as an African-American child growing up in poor conditions, during a time of racial oppression that he directly referred to as slavery. I agreed. He talked about Trump and how bizarre everything is in Washington these days. I also agreed. We talked about injustice, which is my passion. Mike walked 4 miles today. He was very proud of that accomplishment and told me that I helped him do it. That felt good. The history lesson was really cool too.

He loved the fact that we could walk together, as individuals of different races, and talk without being ridiculed or assaulted by society. It’s further proof of how bad things once were and how the people who had to endure those difficult times are so thankful for the progress we have made as a society. With that said, Mike understands that we have a long ways to go, as he mentioned the recent incident at Starbucks where two African-American patrons were unjustifiably arrested.

It was just really neat meeting a stranger and listening to his passionate real life account of things that weigh heavy on my heart. I plan to talk to him more in the future.