“If man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life’s exciting variety, not something to fear.” ― Gene Roddenberry
Space, the final frontier…so many afternoons began with those words when I was growing up watching Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. If you love Star Wars, you should know that even George Lucas acknowledges the tremendous role Star Trek played in the initial acceptance of your favorite movie series. Star Trek took us to places with aliens. Heck, Star Trek was made up of people from different walks of life and different planets. If Captain Kirk, and the viewers, couldn’t appreciate the ideas and attitudes that came with the variety of characters, they’d have been as narrow-minded as Dr. Smith in Lost in Space. It would seem that entertainment is often much more than simply entertaining—it is sometimes educational, and it is often able to help us appreciate and even take delight in the differences between people and cultures.
I don’t know about you, but I want to see other people more clearly, I want to be ok with and maybe even enjoy cultures different than mine. In this quest to be a better person than I was last year, last week, or just a minute ago, I know that I have to look at how I see other people, no matter how different they might be from me. People talk about loving foods from different cultures, decorating from different cultures, even medicine from different cultures. Doesn’t it make sense to consider that you might even like the actual people in those cultures? If humans and Klingons could go from being adversaries to joining forces in a fight against the Romulans, surely we conservatives and liberals, vegans and carnivores, pencil pushers and blue collar workers can be open-minded enough to see the value in appreciating each other. Being open-minded is not easy, but being narrow-minded is no fun.
A friend shared an article recently that suggested something along the lines of our having lunch with someone who sees life differently than we do. Since I was already working on this article, I opted not to read what she shared just yet, but I’m going to guess that what I’m going to ask you to do isn’t far from what they had to say, which is nice to know I’m not the only one thinking this way.
So far this year I’ve asked you to be a better coach, to complain less, to listen more, and to use your voice when necessary. If you have tried to do all of those things, you are ready to sit across the table, figuratively or literally, with someone who sees life differently than you do and try to appreciate how valuable you both are. Maybe it will be one of your employees, the parent of one of your students, the neighbor who worships differently, or the kid who lives in a bigger or smaller house. Choose a person and clean your glasses.
I want to live in a world where people can agree to disagree, where they can choose their battles over the big things and let the little issues remain small. I want to look at other people and know that even if I can’t agree with their point of view, I can understand the passion they have and honor their right to have it. For us to stop assuming the way we see things is the right way is one of my greatest wishes and sometimes most difficult challenges.
In earlier days, I saw things one way and thought it was the right way. I see things as I do today, and I know there might still be a better way. Being open-minded means that I might be disproved, and in that I recognize that I just might become a better person.
In my early 20’s, I was invited on a first date to a concert, and my date asked me to hold his glasses while he looked through binoculars at the performers. What was I supposed to do with the glasses, just hold them? Not I, I placed them in front of my eyes to see what he saw when he looked through them all day. Amazed doesn’t adequately describe my reaction. The way I viewed the world changed that night. I saw things with clarity that I hadn’t seen as more than a fuzzy blob before that night. Racing to the Pearl Vision on Monday morning, I discovered that I could see better than I had at the concert with the correct lens in front of my eyes. I have hardly ever taken my glasses off since then, and the date…well, I married him! The point is, we can easily assume that the way we see things is the way things are until we take the opportunity to see through another’s eyes.
I don’t know you, but I know that whoever you are there is someone who represents all that you fear and possibly hate. What if you find that person who sees life differently than you and ask them to join you in putting some corrective lens in front of your eyes for an hour? What if you have a cup of coffee and learn that the culture you fear, the ideas you oppose, and the attitudes you resent are not so unlike your own? What if you walk away from the experience having learned that the differences are a delight, not something to fear? I believe that it is then that one step will have been made in finding your world, and mine, a better place to live.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
― Mahatma Gandhi