What Communicating Without Words Taught Me About Understanding Others

When we were young, we were taught that diversity is beautiful and unique and everyone deserves to be accepted. We are no longer drawing pictures for a  calendar cover contest in third grade, and the values we learn in our youth are being challenged. We have a president who is massively assumed to be racist, and bigotry taints all corners of our country. What happened to finding beauty in diversity? The melting pot is no longer melting, but segregated by origin, sex, language, even appearance. We are no longer a country rich in diversity, but obsessed with uniformed similarities.

I have a Chinese roommate. She is here as a student. Her mother was spending a few days in our home, here to spend time with her daughter. She flew in from China and speaks little to no English.

This morning, she woke up when I began to get ready for work. I smiled, waved, and began to make breakfast. She motioned over her hair. It took me a second, but I realized she was asking for a hairbrush. I handed her mine. She smiled. She pointed at food on the counter, and then the fridge. I put the food  in the fridge, reminded of my mother; she wanted it done, and it was to be done. She pointed at her wrist, tapping it. I told her the time, she gave me a huge hug and dashed out the door.

I was surprised that she hugged me. But then I began to consider how many people she has come into contact with here have made an actual effort to communicate with her. It would not surprise me if people in stores or on the street put a wall up as soon as they realized she didn’t speak the same language as others did here. Communication isn’t about sameness. It’s about understanding the needs and wants of others, and being able to thing about where the other person is coming from — even if it is a different continent.

This is what America is supposed to be about; understanding. Many people who come here come from war-torn countries or impoverished areas, hoping for a better life. That is what this country is built upon: the chance for a better opportunity. The pilgrims came here in hopes of building a world better than their last. This country is supposed to be the land of the free — people come here for better jobs, better healthcare, better lives. Fathers come here to feed their children. Mothers come here for their children to have a better education.

I think we can all stop and be a little more understanding about those different than us, in all sorts of ways. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is such a cliche, but can you picture your family in Syria, your home being bombed daily? Can you see your children in Southern Africa, not knowing if they would eat again? Can you see yourself being mutilated for your sex, or being murdered because of your sexual orientation? We are wealthy, we are strong, and we are blessed.

I am proud to be an American. I am proud that I live here and feel blessed everyday that I am able to experience life the ways most never will. I am not proud of the white supremacy, the police brutality, the overall bigotry ruining our nation. We need to walk a mile in the shoes of others. A mother is a mother, a baby is a baby. Remember what makes each of us human, not what makes us different.

-Mais.

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