Yesterday I sat in Bryant Park drinking coffee and working, it was lunchtime and the park was packed with office workers reading, eating, soaking up the sun, and playing chess.

As always, while I was writing and drawing little pictures (working on some ideas for a client), I was watching. People watching is one of my favorite things to do, (not in a stalkerish kind of way) but I love to watch the moments, the body language and the connection.

I watched the chess players. There are boards set up in the park and people sit waiting to play with a passer-by. From what I could work out, many of them have seen better times, and now they make a quick buck (or $5) chess hustling. The guy I overheard said to a passer by “I know how to move all the pieces, I’m just trying to improve my game” and went on to beat him without missing a beat. As the game went on (it only lasted for about 4 minutes) a grin grew on his face. Most people that sat and played seemed to look on it as they were paying a few dollars for the pleasure, they didn’t care that they would get beaten, they knew they would learn something. They were well dressed, suit and tie men and just wanted some mental challenge during a break from work.

This is where it got interesting for me. Once the game started it didn’t matter that one man was wearing a suit and tie and may run a company and live in a penthouse apartment and the other was dressed in clothes that not long ago belonged to someone else who was twice his size. It didn’t matter if they spoke different languages, or were different religions, or what means of transport they used. The game mattered. Brain against brain. Man against man.

For those few minutes a connection happened. They didn’t talk much – the odd comment or laugh after a move, but even that was more to themselves than their opponent. But the game made them equal. It didn’t matter about the money, or the scam – both players were gaining from the game.

I think sometimes, especially in a big city, it’s easy to get caught up in the seedy side of the city, and not see the good. Yes, money changes hands, but it’s only a few dollars, and that moment when two people connect over a game of chess is priceless and much can be learned from it. Before we see the differences, let’s remember there are always things we have in common with others. Always. Today, when you think someone doesn’t understand, look for what you have in common – not what divides you. As Maya Angelou put it so beautifully:

“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”