My wife Kendra and I have just completed a marvelous 25 day trip to Europe. While in Europe we saw and experienced many things. Above all we reveled in the opportunity to share these things together and to discuss our discoveries every day. On the way home Kendra watched a movie called “People Like Us”, and just the title made me reflect again on our trip.
Europe is not at all like Canada. In Canada we marvel at old things whereas in Europe the modern attracts attention. Home is wide open spaces while in the old world you always seem to be craning in anticipation to see around the next corner. We are used to understanding every word we hear and don’t give a second thought to our ability to express ourselves … Europe is a melting pot of language with most of the skill residing with the residents, not the tourists. In Canada history is studied in schools whereas our counterpart’s children learn history by visiting it.
In short, Europe can make me feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz … “We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto!” We are both energized and displaced by our new surroundings. We yearn to go out every day and see something new and be amazed. And we truly are amazed. Aside from the sights themselves, part of us revels in the day to day of human life … of friends talking and children playing and drivers driving and knowing we are all the same everywhere. And then that other part of us speaks up from a place of feeling vulnerable to say things like: “What if I get lost?” “Will this person respect me if I can’t speak their language?” “How should I behave to fit in?”
As we went through our days of travel and learning and blissful experience we noticed a dark tinge enter our discussions where we became critical of the places we visited and the people who live there. Why do they seem to ignore us? Why can’t they pick up their dog poop? Why do they smoke so much (really why do they)? Why does the waiter looked peeved when I don’t order three courses?
In short we are really thinking: “Why aren’t these people more like me?” And I begin to realize that we humans have a strong need for connection with all other humans and when we are blocked in that regard we begin to feel like we don’t belong. And that doesn’t feel good.
Is it possible that all of the questions about being ignored and dog poop and smoking and eating too much are really more about our own essential need to be connected … to belong? And when our belonging is in question because of language or custom or any other reason, do we look for reasons that we don’t WANT to belong to make ourselves “alright”?
I thought about this a lot in Europe. There is a lot to love in Europe but there is a lot that is different. Is it possible that it is the difference that we love the most? And shouldn’t we embrace and live in that difference and know that we all belong together, no matter how different?