Across the street from my office in Dhaka is a playing field. It is usually used by young men and boys to play cricket, though in the mornings and evenings there are also many people, including women, walking around it for exercise.
Recently a group of my interns joined a friend who happens to be a professional footballer from Cameroon for an impromptu football game. The other players were from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Uganda, and Vietnam. The ball regularly flew off into someone’s cricket game; the boys on the field would kick it back to us or hit it with their cricket bat. Their cricket balls regularly joined our game; we tossed them back. A few kids were riding bicycles around the crowded field. A couple of boys were using a branch in a big mud puddle as a swing. Two boys were towing a girl sitting in the broken half of a wheeled suitcase around the field. Our game (let’s be honest, I was just a spectator) drew quite a crowd, with many people asking me the nationalities of our players.
I often write about the beauty of public space because I can never say enough about the joy of watching different people gather in a public spot to share good times together. I dearly hope these experiences will also spread tolerance and understanding as we welcome those different from ourselves into our cities and hearts.