We’re Not So Different
Our children recently returned from a summer study program in France. In addition to improving their French and experiencing life in a different country, they also had the chance to spend time with kids from all over the world. They hung out with students from Russia, Columbia, Libya, Switzerland, and Holland. Our daughter shared a room with 3 other girls, one from Italy, one from France, and one from Spain. Our son spent many afternoons playing soccer with a group of Brazilians.
Traveling abroad let’s you learn a lot about people’s differences. We eat different foods (on his last night in France our son had frog legs and escargot for dinner), have different religious beliefs (one of the students was observing Ramadan), and follow different customs (even after living in Spain for years I never got used to eating lunch at 2:30 and dinner at 10:30!).
But I think one of the most important lessons we learn when we travel to different countries is not how different, but how similar we are. All people want the same thing. We want to be safe from harm, to be healthy, to be loved, to be happy. I’m sure the conversations my daughter had with her roommates in France were very similar to the conversations she has with her friends here in Virginia. My son’s experience playing soccer with the Brazilians was a lot like playing soccer with his friends in the States (maybe a bit more intense!).
You don’t have to leave the country to find people who are different from you. The U.S. is full of people from diverse racial backgrounds, religions, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and generations. Our tendency is to focus on our differences.
The next time you interact with or start to form an opinion about someone who seems different from you, take a minute to remind yourself how similar you really are. We all share the same DNA. In fact, it is possible that research into your genealogy will reveal that that person is a distant cousin.
Imagine what might happen if we all treated one another as family, if we focused on our similarities rather than our differences, if we reminded ourselves that all anyone really wants is to be safe, healthy, loved, and happy. What a wonderful world that would be!