I was 15 years old the first time I went to France. Before I left Wisconsin, I distinctly remember driving in the car with my mother and thinking, “Really, how different could it be? There will be streets and houses and sidewalks, just like here.” Well, it was really different – the streets weren’t asphalt, and the houses were made of stone. Sometimes there were no sidewalks! Everything about the village where I stayed felt FOREIGN.
Twenty years later, with a bit more international experience under my belt, I can say that Young Anne was both right and wrong. The differences between Wisconsin and France are big. And mid-westerners are in many ways really different from the French. (My host family had a hard time believing that cheese could be yellow, for example. I, of course, told that story a lot when I got home and satisfied my craving for Wisconsin Cheddar.)
But it actually doesn’t matter whether you zoom in or zoom out, it’s crazy how similar we all actually are. We all get up in the morning and have things we do during the day. We all interact with family, friends, acquaintances. We have things we must do and things we do for fun. We all eat. We all come in contact with the world around us and, when it’s time, we get ready for bed, and we sleep. All of us.
Zoom out and you see the big life things that make us all similar. We all want to feel loved and happy. We all want to have friends and to belong. We all have dreams and wishes and wants, even if we’re the only people in the world who know them. We all want children to be healthy and safe. All of us.
I love our differences, don’t get me wrong. I love that in the Ivory Coast people eat fried plantains instead of potato chips and that none of the old houses in Yemen have evenly-spaced stairs because they were all cut by hand many, many years ago. And that in Haiti each ‘tap-tap’ bus is painted with a bright design all it’s own because passengers believe the more decorated a bus the safer its driver (you care for appearances, you must also care for life). Differences are a big part of what makes life interesting and unique and always gives us something else to see and experience and learn.
Still, if we’d notice our similarities with the same intensity that we notice our differences, the whole world would probably not just seem more friendly – it actually would be.
Stay Globe Smart, Anne Glick