As soon as I stepped off the plane, I felt small in an airport filled with thousands of people from around the world. Even after I arrived at my destination two hours from the airport, Texas seemed like a different world to me. From the higher temperature to the increased presence of fast-food restaurants, it made me feel out of place.
A number of students and leaders were beside me during this trip. During my time, my friends and I helped rebuild a home destroyed by a hurricane a few years ago. The homeowner’s name was Phil, and he was everything I was not. He was an older gentleman left by his wife and children, battling health problems, and truly invested in his faith like no one I’d met before. Every day, he would greet us from the porch of his house, despite the added difficulty he had walking. He had a smile that was contagious and cooking skills that rivaled Gordon Ramsey’s. We spent those days putting in drywall, insulation, mudding, and painting the walls. They were also filled with conversation between us; everything from him telling us his story, teaching us how to barbeque, and telling us fun facts about airplanes.
These conversations made me realize how we might be different on the surface, but once you dig deeper, we’re more similar than you’d think. We both enjoyed traveling, had faiths of our own, loved our families, and appreciated good food. Even in our group, we all had different connections we made with Phil, as well as each other.
In times of adversity, I question why the world focuses on our differences more than our similarities. The topics of race, gender, and religion are constantly brought up as things that separate us. Why can’t the things that separate us bring us closer together? Everything that makes us unique also has the power to create stories from the way we all experience life differently. Our individual stories can unite us.
In the end, we are all human. We all have special experiences and stories to tell. No one is the same as someone else in this world.
So why not reach out a hand to someone you think is the complete opposite of you? Humor me, and see if your stories can bring you closer together as you start to see similarities in yourselves. In a time that physically separates us, I challenge you to emotionally connect yourselves to those around you.