Phil Collins said it best in “Strangers Like Me” from Disney’s 1999 “Tarzan,” “I wanna know/Can you show me?/I wanna know ‘bout them strangers like me.” Not only is it one of the most acclaimed songs on the album, but the montage showing Tarzan becoming entranced with the new knowledge he was learning and the new world around him also added more depth to the lyrical content. Besides being the timeless bop it is, “Strangers Like Me” gives us a view through a scope of the beauty of human connection.
The title alone is both simple and complex because not only is Tarzan learning new things from strangers who look like him, but as humans, we should want to know more about strangers because we could be more alike than presumed. Although our looks diversify, we all bleed red. During this summer break, I had a resonating, magical experience with a stranger, and by the end of it, it felt like I had known them for years.
I cannot simply call this experience a mere encounter because the conversation being discussed was way more than socially constructed small talk. I was out for a book club at Beausoleil Books downtown with my sister and friends when a white guy approached and asked if he could interview us for his thesis about black women’s liberation. Of course we accepted without any hesitation since we were all passionate about the topic, including the guy.
The questions we were asked dealt with belonging within a predominantly white institution and politics including Obama, protests and so much more where we did not even get the chance to discuss our book. Nonetheless, I would not trade that experience for anything else in the world because not only did we get into Black Lives Matter, but we also got into LGBTQ+ rights and how the government treats both of us the same.
He then goes on to share his story: he lost his brother and mother in Hurricane Katrina, his dad died in 2011, he was there at the Pulse shooting in 2016, and his husband was senselessly murdered in 2019. Hearing his story both moved and broke me because he continues to push forward after all he went through. He said for a long time, he believed that he should have been the one to die, and if he was not in the bathroom during the shooting, we would not have ever crossed paths.
Once he finished, I asked if I could hug him, and once I did, I did nothing else but speak life into him. I am a Christian, so I told him God kept him here for this very moment: four black women and one gay, white man connecting about our oppressions, our hopes, and the want for a better world. Tears were shed, yet it felt cathartic. Usually, I would have to overthink the simplest of conversations, but I literally spoke from the heart because it felt natural to do so.
Experiences like these restore my faith in humanity, and they uplift my spirit, especially with dealing with the shenanigans of the world. That is why it is important to be kind to one another because you never know the full story. It should not take us being stranded in a jungle to connect with an ape-man. Matter of fact, give your fellow ape-man a compliment and a smile because that compliment and smile can save a life.