By Shir Levi - Visit Shir on her YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/shirlevi | Ready to "wear it out loud?” Merch store open, SHOP NOW: http://bit.ly/storybooth-merch | Subscribe: http://bit.ly/sub2storybooth | Record your story @ https://storybooth.com or our iPhone app for a chance to get animated. Comment, like, share this story.
Shir Levi is an amazing, dynamic, and soulful YouTuber and storyteller who lives in Israel and who, on her channel, tries to share everything she learns on her journey through life.
Shir remembers so clearly, when she was twelve years old, watching the live television broadcast of the planes flying into the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001 (9/11). Those terrible moments had such an impact on her, planting such fear and uncertainty inside of her, haunting her. And she remembers the stories in the newspapers that came out after 9/11, with pictures of the suspected terrorists.
Years later she was sitting on a plane waiting for take-off, relaxing and reading a book, when suddenly a man appeared and took the seat next to hers. In his mid-forties, dark-skinned and with a long black beard, he sat down and stared straight ahead with a scary look in his eyes. He didn't say hello to her or acknowledge her in any way. She was scared of this man right from the start, so intense, almost angry.
And, if that wasn't bad enough, when the flight attendant began to go over the safety features of the airplane, that man sitting next to her started mumbling to himself in Arabic. He wouldn't stop, and began sweating, shaking, and shifting and moving around in his seat - like he was totally nervous. And this made her totally nervous too.
The plane started to take off and the man continued mumbling to himself, louder and stronger - scarier - still sweating and shaking and looking straight ahead.
Shir, who is Jewish and Israeli, was sitting next to him just so scared and completely terrified, afraid she was going to literally lose her mind. She focused on her breathing, on anything that could calm her down and keep her from being so scared of this man sitting next to her, who continued to act totally agitated, very suspicious and was leading her to believe he might be a terrorist. And the idea of a terrorist on a plane sitting right next to you might make you feel so scared you feel like you are going crazy.
And at that moment, just when she felt she was about to lose it completely, she remembered the book she had been reading, and a line that she had just highlighted - "When fear is present in us we bring awareness to it. We smile at it and call it by its true name." She noticed then that the man sitting next to her was looking over at the book she was clutching and without a second thought she offered it to him.
He took the book, looked at it, and asked "What's it about?" Shir told him - "It's about peace." He spent a moment looking through the book and then finally, he looked over at her and asked "Where are you from?"
Even though she was still scared she took a deep breath, looked him in the eyes, and told him "I am from Israel." He got quiet for a moment, they both did, a lot of tension in the air between them, and then finally he told her how the news and media in his country portrayed Israelis as evil people, but, to his surprise (and hers) here they were, sharing a book about peace.
They both smiled at each other, relieved, and before she knew it they were sharing stories and family photos and he even shared with her how scared he was of flying. He was scared of flying, not a terrorist and was a peaceful Muslim Arab Man.
They were there, together, connecting and helping each other, acknowledging the fear that sometimes takes over, but learning to break those fears and stereotypes and to instead see the big picture, to be mindful and compassionate and to realize that it is up to each person, individually, to choose to act differently when we can - to build bridges instead of walls.
Shir realized on that plane ride, with that terrifying stranger who became a friend, that change has to begin with us, because we are all truly in this together. Discrimination, prejudice and being judgemental are a cancer that we can cure.
- - -
What's your story? storybooth wants to hear it!
If you liked this storybooth animation and love storytime / story time kid videos, watch our themed playlist collections:
Love and Heartbreak:
Embarrassing and Funny:
Bullies and Mean People: