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.
A couple of weeks ago my wife and I attended a Moth Mainstage event in Portland Oregon. The Moth features everyday people who tell stories about their life without using any notes. It’s just the speaker, a microphone, and the audience.
That night we heard from 5 different storytellers:
- A junior speech writer for President Obama
- An Australian lady helping her Hungarian boyfriend gain US citizenship
- A dad remembering a Halloween after the death of a beloved family pet
- The son of a man who died on Mt. Everest
- A Sudanese refugee’s journey across Africa, after fleeing from her war-torn country, that eventually led to the United States
Their stories were riveting.
As my wife and I were driving home, discussing what we’d just heard, we were both struck by how hearing someone’s story gave us an understanding as to how they thought about, felt about, and perceived their unique experience. Even though neither of us has fled a war in our own country, we gained a slight understanding of how someone who has had that experience might feel, simply by hearing this Sudanese woman’s story.
Here’s the best part: if we ever meet someone who is or was a refugee, we will have a better chance of understanding what concerns or fears they may be dealing with, simply because we were willing to listen to someone else’s similar experience.
I think it’s important to be curious about other people and willing to listen to them in order to gain a better perspective as to how their experiences have shaped their worldview, especially when they are different from us in culture or beliefs.
Be curious as you meet people that are different from you, and be willing to listen to them to understand how their experiences have shaped them. It’s a great way to build connection with people you meet in the future that may have had a similar experience.