It seems like much of the world is divided, distrustful, and fearful of one another. It’s evident on the evening news, in social media, and out in public. But does it have to be like this? Is this really the type of world we have to live in? I don’t think so.
So how do we start to change the culture of our communities, our countries, and our world?
I was at a black history month event on Tuesday evening when I heard someone give their answer to this question. Simply put, they said, “Get to know someone who is different from you.” I love this response because it is so simple, yet so significant.
When we earnestly get to know someone different from us, with the motivation to understand them better, we become less fearful and distrustful of them, because we now have a frame of reference. It’s easy to fear and distrust what we don’t know or have never come in contact with.
Here’s an interesting thought to ponder: There is probably someone who is fearful of you, because you are different from them. Wouldn’t it be great if we could alleviate the fear in others simply by being open, welcoming ambassadors of whatever group we represent?
Here’s some life-long homework for all of us:
- Get in the habit of regularly interacting with someone who is different from you.
- Become a welcoming ambassador for whatever group you represent.
We can either increase fear or distrust in ourselves and others, or we can do our best to decrease these feelings by doing our homework.
The world could use a lot less fear and distrust among its inhabitants. Let’s all make sure to get our homework done.
Many years ago, I spent a fall and winter at Ft. Leonard Wood Missouri while attending Army basic training. Those were some frigid months that gave me a new found appreciation for how frozen vegetables must feel. During those below-freezing temperatures however, I was blessed to have also seen some of nature’s most beautiful work.
One night after dinner we were lined up in formation to march back to the barracks. (The Army loves to march!) As we were standing in the dry frigid air of night, waiting for the drill sergeant to bark out commands to being marching, it began to snow. I noticed a couple of flakes fall on the soldier’s coat in front of me, and as they did, I couldn’t believe what I saw. Each individual flake was so perfectly and uniquely shaped, just like you see in Christmas cartoons or beautiful Christmas ornaments. Never before had I seen an individual snow flake. Sure, I knew that snow is made of up individual flakes, but this was the first time I had actually seen how detailed, elegant, fragile, and beautiful a snowflake really is. It was a scene I have never forgotten.
It’s hard to believe that something like a ski slope, a snow covered meadow, a snowy mountaintop, or even an avalanche is made up of millions of unique, individual, beautiful snowflakes. I think it’s a lot like that with people as well. It’s easy to just see people as communities, nations, families, organizations, or other large collections. But what’s interesting to me is that every one of the aforementioned groups is made up of unique, individual, beautiful people.
As you’re moving around in the different groups of people in the weeks ahead, take notice of the individuals that make up those groups. Look at how unique each one of them is and how their uniqueness adds to the group they’re in.
And don’t forget to look at yourself as well. You are also unique and valuable to the larger groups you are a part of, and those groups are fortunate to have you.
Have you ever strained a muscle in your lower back? Not only is it painful, it also underscores how much those muscles are used throughout the day for routine tasks like walking, standing, balancing, sneezing, and a host of other activities. It isn’t until these muscles are strained or out of commission that we realize how important they are to the larger community of our physical body.
I think it can be like that with people in our lives as well. We don’t realize how important others are or how much they contribute until they are no longer around. And I’m not just referring to those closest to us. Think about the people that make your community function like the grocers, merchants, manufacturers, civil servants, garbage collectors, doctors, public utilities… the list is endless.
When these people are present, we hardly notice them. Now imagine if any one of these groups of people were no longer around in your community. It wouldn’t take long to notice, as our community would be significantly impacted by their absence.
I mention this not only as a reminder to be grateful for all those in our communities that we don’t notice, but rely on daily, but to remind us that others in our communities are counting on us as well.
That’s how communities work.