Are you a peach or a coconut?
Belgians were a bunch of coconuts. Latin America was one big peach orchard. And I don’t know what the hell I am.
The metaphor is new to me, but I heard the idea years ago about the Far East. “Chinese people seem rude, even hostile, and it’s hard to make friends, but once you do connect, they’re incredibly loyal and intimate. The Japanese are the opposite, very welcoming and hospitable from the beginning, but it’s hard to really get to know them.”
That is, Chinese coconuts (only soft and welcoming if you can make it past the hard protective shell) and Japanese peaches (welcoming from the get-go, but holding an inner core apart) have a hard time connecting.
Americans are famously peachy. Foreigners are astonished at our cashier kindness, coworker questions, and sidewalk strangers’ smiles, but they wonder if we’re putting on an act when our kindness hits the back wall of privacy. I can’t say which is better but if I’m going to ride through life in the back of a fruit truck, peaches sure do make for a more pleasant ride. At times I fear for our fuzzy welcome, with our devotion to a national religion of fear, plus the inevitable calluses of an increasingly urban lifescape.
So it was reassuring to hear my international cast of tour guide friends again extol the kindness they felt from average Americans on the streets of Washington State. Granted, my warm-hearted colleagues would receive a warm welcome anywhere on earth. And that is where I take reassurance, reaping again the shared and individual humanitarian benefits of travel and contact, even when the travelers are coming to me.
Because in the end, this Coconut-v-Peach idea is a stab at characterizing the vast variety and splendor of our species. And as with all such attempts to describe us, I wonder where the benefits of approximations at understanding verge into the disservice of divisiveness. But when we travel, when we meet each other, recognize our differences but saturate in our commonality, I find hope for this branch of upright monkeys who take ourselves so terribly seriously.
So to all my kith and friends-to-be, whether you’re a coconut, peach, avocado (slightly thicker skin than a peach), or strawberry of all-the-way-through love, I’ll see you somewhere in this buffet of life. Now why am I craving a smoothie?
(PS. One of my favorite coworkers informed me that the black background on here made it hard to read. I thank him, but the rest of you are in trouble for not telling me! Is blue better?)