I have lived and worked all over the US, Germany & Ireland, traveled a good portion of the world, and worked with people and groups in/from/on literally every continent. (Don’t forget the research stations in those frozen bits.)
I have friends who are Muslim. I have friends who are Hindu. I have friends who are Buddhist. I have friends who are atheists. I have friends who are Christian. I have friends who are Taoist. I have friends who are Jewish. I have friends who are Shinto. I have friends who are Pagan. I have friends who are Wiccan. I have friends who walk many earth-based ways. I have friends who still don’t know, and I have friends who walk paths so old they no longer have a name – and that’s ok. In fact, it’s beautiful.
I have friends who are feathered. I have friends who are finned. I have friends who love women. I have friends who love men. I have friends who love everyone. I have friends in the city. I have friends in the country. I have friends on the outside, and I have friends behind the walls. I have friends who are parents, and friends who aren’t. I have friends from this planet, and friends who don’t claim it. I have friends who have facial hair, and friends who have none. I have friends who play strings, and friends who play woodwinds, friends who prefer keyboards, still others a drum. I have friends who act cranky, and friends who act pleasant. I have friends who are living, and friends long gone on. I have friends living in mansions, in condos, in trailers and vans – and one of my most treasured friends had no roof to call his own. I have friends who like face paint, and others who don’t. I have friends who drive four wheels, friends who drive two, and a whole host of friends who prefer wings. The point is, I have a lot of friends, who have all kinds of differences. Some are short. Some are tall. Some are fat (ok, just a little fluffy), some are thin. Some are old, some are young. Some like pizza, some like popsicles. Some wouldn’t touch either with a 10-foot pole. And you know what? We all get along just fine. None of them have tried to kill me. And I haven’t tried to kill any of them.
How about we start getting past all the hype and headlines and start looking at the reality around us? We fear the unknown – so how about we get out there and start KNOWING a little more, up close and personal, instead of basing all our ideas and thoughts and opinions on what others want us to think, others who may have no more experience in these areas than we do? No, I’m not saying everyone is like this – but there are a LOT more peace-loving people out there than the headlines lead you to believe. And one of the things I’ve learned more and more over the years – look for the things we have in common – that’s the trick to mediation. Listen for the feelings, and look for what you share. Don’t let the extremists of the world color your perspective – not all Muslims belong to ISIS. Not all Christians belong to the KKK. And if you haven’t met anyone on paths different than your own, maybe it’s time to get out more, and start looking for them, instead of just accepting what we’re being spoon-fed by those who profit by stirring up trouble.
One of my greatest learnings happened years ago, when I took my Masters in Germany. Our cohort had 32 people from 40 countries, together studying Intercultural Communication. It was amazing. Yes, we had a lot of differences, a lot to be aware of, and sensitive to. And one thing we all agreed – we learned the most, not from the books, but from each other. We learned the most in late-night gab sessions over dimly lit kitchen tables, as we all shared our experiences and beliefs and thoughts and hopes. And we also learned that there was one place none of that mattered: On the dance floor. The year we graduated, Madonna’s song “Music Makes the People Come Together” came out – and boy, was she right. It did. And we did. And it was a beautiful thing.
For those of us who have had experiences that prove this, I think it’s increasingly important that we stand up and share it, loud and proud. Not just stand by when you hear something said that you KNOW isn’t true. Speak YOUR truth. Share what you have seen, what you have lived, about the people you know, about your friends, your family. This doesn’t have to be theoretical – we can make it VERY, VERY real by saying “This is what I have experienced.” Then apply the first rule of good behavior and non-bullying – quit stepping over other people’s boundaries. Quit trying to force them to be like you. Quit judging them if they aren’t. Accept them, celebrate them, for who they are (yourself too, by the way). Share the music, share the joy, share the sadness when it comes, and keep on walkin’.
I am SO grateful that my life experiences have taught me that deep down, we have much more in common that we might ever imagine. And that the most important part is what is in our hearts – I don’t care what accent you have, or what cosmology you honor. May we remember that we have only this one little planet to share – there is no away, as Julia Butterfly Hill put it. And may we learn to share it in peace and good will.
(C) 2016 Mary Batson, FrontPorchRambles.com
All rights reserved, including the one to dance with whomever I like, whenever I like, and whether or not any music is playing. ❤