Sometimes a brief conversation with a stranger can be life-changing.
Recently, I was talking with a woman who grew up in Vietnam. I listened intently as she described working in rice fields as a young girl. She remembered being in a state of constant fear as she worked alongside her family. Animal attacks were not uncommon because the tall grasses provided the perfect camouflage for hunting. At a very young age, she had to learn how to treat poisonous snake bites quickly, elude predators like anacondas, and evacuate her home when the floods came. She and her family had to learn and practice basic survival skills every day – something most Americans aren’t familiar with outside of reality TV. Food was not readily accessible to them either. Instead, its availability was directly related to how much they were able to grow. Survival was dependent upon staying safe and healthy enough to work.
As I sat and listened to her share these emotional memories, I realized how fortunate I am to live where I do. But I also realized how sheltered and myopic I have become. I’ve lived a life of convenience and comfort. I’ve had more than enough food, an education, extra money to buy things I don’t really need and shelter from the elements. I forget what life is like for many people who live in developing countries, and it’s easy to see why so many want to live here. While we’re busy complaining about working long hours, others are simply trying to stay alive.
Most of us tend to interact with people who think and act like we do, so we rarely hear or experience anything that falls outside our own perspectives of the world. Unfortunately, that fosters narrow-mindedness. Make an effort to talk to people who see the world differently. It might just change you.