Of all the things I hold dear in life, community is at the top of my list. Community is vital; it impacts our world views, our perspectives, and our goals. For the longest time my community consisted of people who were just like me- same upbringing, same culture, same values, etc. There is so much value in being surrounded by those who are like-minded; they are able to encourage and equip you as you chase dreams and walk through life’s trials. But I would argue that being in community with those of different cultural backgrounds, views, beliefs, etc. is equally as important.
I have been fortunate enough to travel. My love for travel began when I was young with a trip to Zimbabwe and it deepened in college when I spent a summer studying abroad in Europe. Prior to my exposure to various cultures around the world- I had spent most of my life in a stubborn narrow-mindedness. I had, unintentionally, made my world small and self-focused.
But upon interacting with others from various backgrounds and cultures, I realize how absolutely rich life can be when you take the time to listen to someone else’s story, aspirations, views, and hopes. My perspective shifted, I began to see the big picture. Rather than seeing others as part of my own personal story, I realized that every one is living their own story, and that we are all part of a grander story.
How do we gain this perspective?
The first (and simplest) step of obtaining a big picture perspective is to open your ears. Listen to the thoughts, opinions, and ideals of others. Taking a moment to listen may be insignificant to you, but you never know the lasting impact it could leave. And you just might find yourself inspired and challenged to dream a new dream or start a new endeavor.
So what should our response to listening be? ENGAGEMENT. Don’t stop at listening – ask people why they feel they way they do and why they care about what they care about what they care about. Share your own passions and opinions. Engaging with others propels us to deeper and broader thinking, and ultimately a big picture, community-driven perspective.
The people I hold of highest value in my life are those who have invested in me somehow. They have shaped how I view the world and challenged me to the best I can be. Step outside yourself, you will likely have to sacrifice to invest in others- but the perspective that you will gain is worth the cost.
We don’t have to see the world how everyone else sees the world, and we don’t have conform our beliefs to those around us, but it is so crucial to open our eyes. Don’t hunker down and live a self-serving, self-glorifying life.
Look up, see others around you, find out what makes them tick, and find out why they are they way they are. You don’t have to travel across the world to encounter diversity. Strike up a conversation with a co-worker, a neighbor, or the guy behind you in line at the grocery store. I guarantee you; it won’t be hard to find someone with a story very different than your own.