I have had a series of very interesting conversations while in South Africa. Many of them with my other fellow COST students and others with some of the local people. Something that the kids I teach and other locals always ask is “What is life like in America?” or “Is America a nice place?” I always respond with a shrug and “Its a nice place. Its home.” I don’t know if this satisfies their curiosity but I don’t know what else to say. I have never really given much thought to these questions until coming to South Africa. I am sure when I return home my friends and family will ask me the same questions “What is life like in South Africa?” or “Is South Africa a nice place?” I am sure my response will still be a slight shrug of my shoulders and “Is a nice place. It was my home for about 3 months.”
But what are people really wanting to know when they ask questions like that? Where do those questions stem from? I guess people on both sides of the ocean who have never visited either place want to know in order to compare what they have heard about either country or seen on TV to whatever someone who has actually experienced the place says its like. I can understand this a little bit, but after spending close to three months in South Africa I have come to a great conclusion. I am sure this will just shock people all over the world! Are you ready for it…People are still people no matter where they live.
Shocking! I know it is, but its very true. People still live in real houses and have jobs and children and lives no matter if they live in the US or in Africa. We may talk a little differently and have different traditions but other than that we are still all the same. We still want the same things and work towards achieving those things.
So why do we separate ourselves? Why do we get so caught up in our own lives that we forget that their are other people in this world that are hurting just like us. That want the same things in life as us, to be loved and accepted by someone. The recent events in Japan is a good reminder that we are not alone in this world. We have other people to think about. We must not only be citizens of the individual countries we live in but a citizen of this world. If South Africa has taught me anything it has taught me that people are still people. We all breath the same and all bleed the same. So why do we separate ourselves? Don’t continue to allow what the media says or has said about other countries or races to be the foundation of your judgement of the world.
As a teacher, this is something I want to teach my students. Something I love about children is that generally they are not jaded by the world or what the media puts in their faces. There is still hope for them! They have a precious gift called innocence that sadly can’t be bought in stores. But the classroom is a powerful place that allows this innocence to grow and be protected. Children have the ability to enter into a situation without any preconceived notions and look at situations from both sides. Then after hearing both sides of the argument they are able to choose for themselves what to believe and what is right. It is a sad day indeed when they lose part of that innocence and pureness of mind.
People are still people no matter where you go. They make talk a little differently or have different traditions. Christ teaches loving your neighbor as you love yourself. That includes neighbors that live 3,000 miles away or neighbors that speak a different language or believe something different from you. Step out of your comfort zone and get to know someone completely different from you. I think you will be surprised at how much you have in common.