Take a snapshot of this scenario: The land … the country you have lived your entire life has suddenly reached a catastrophic state. Everywhere you look, you see devastation … horror. The good memories are now gone, only to be replaced by a heavy sadness and a huge loss. At least you have your immediate family to hold onto as your walk the barren, deserted roads. Suddenly, you hear the rumors that the surviving individuals will need to evacuate to other countries. The rumors quickly turn into truth, as you learn more about this life-shifting move that is coming at you full-steam. The latest news is that individuals will be sent to a country that is not of their choice. As if that is hard enough to swallow, you were told the next day that the culture in that country is polar opposite that the one that was in your homeland. So, now you are facing the future of a new country, a new culture, a new land. Nothing you once knew would be there. As mind blowing as that it, devastation is quickly surmounting around you, and you have 24 hours to pack a change of clothes and only three small items to take with you. Unsure of the future of the country where you lived … built all your memories … these three items may be all that you have to remember the culture that shaped and molded you into who you are today … What would you choose?
To be honest, I have been thinking about this question all week. I thought about my daily goings and comings, determining what items I use on a daily basis that I just positively can’t see myself without. My mind immediately went to my cell phone. My phone has become my second-hand man. It does everything for me … from my banking to keeping in touch with my loved ones. Perhaps this would be a good choice? Then again, I would be in a completely new country. Therefore, the cell towers probably … well ok … won’t reach my cell phone, AND I won’t be able to keep up my with my cell phone bill. Ultimately, my cell phone would be useless in a new country. Well, that idea got thrown out the window. Then, I began to truly dig deep into my life. What items have been with me since I was young? What items define who I am today? What items bring me a sense of hope, comfort, and love? Well, it was a bit tough narrowing down to only three, but they are (with attached descriptions):
(Please note the above pictures depict the real items.)
Ok … here’s another snapshot to add to your photo album: You packed up all of your items and boarded the plane with your family. As you stare at the water below you, you grip onto the blanket for a sense of comfort. When the plane lands, your feet hit the soil hard. Your feet shuffled slowly, as you dread meeting new people in a whole new land. You reach the customs station and are forced to open the only bag you brought with you. You are shown to small, dimly-lit room, with a friendly man sitting at a table. Through the translator, you are asked to put all of the items on the table. Your hand reaches all three items, as your delicately place each one on the table in front of you. The man, with a smile painted on his face, touches the items without a word. Then, slowly, he asks you one question: What do these items mean to you? (Of course, the translator spoke this sentence to you.) What would your response be?
- My blanket: This blanket has seen me through the worst and happiest days of my life. Since I was first born, it was wrapped around me to keep me warm and to shelter me from the world. As I grew, every time I would fall down or get sick, this blanket was there to provide me comfort, reassuring me of familiarity and love. Reaching my teen years and being introduced to love and heartbreak, this blanket was there to wipe away my tears as this boy or that broke my heart. As I birthed my son into this world, I gripped this blanket with all my might to bear through the pain. You see, this blanket is so much more than material. It holds vivid memories of my entire life. Etched through the seams are my thoughts, my secrets, my tears, and my smiles. It has provided warmth on the coldest nights, comforts on the hardest days, love on the loneliest days, and safety when the world was too hard to face. It has been my dearest friend … my only friend … my friend in the middle of the time … my friend when I needed one the most. This blanket and I have been together through the good and bad times … and will be together until my last breath. “Until the grave…” I whisper softly.
- My Bible: My Bible has been a source of guidance and direction throughout my life. When I was a young girl, I decided to follow Christ, letting my light burn brightly for all the world to see. Yet, I realized that I couldn’t fulfill this decision all on my own. I needed direction to show me how to live and where to go. While people around me where helpful, the Bible was my ultimate source to show me how to live an upright, righteous life. When the road got bumpy, I ingested the words scattered through the Bible to get me through. As I had moments of triumph, I sang praises through the very words etched on the pages. The Bible has spoken words for me when I could no longer speak. I hold the Bible very dear to my heart, as it has guided my thoughts, words, and actions throughout my lifetime.
- My Family Pictures: Although these photos are not the actual individuals, they represent memories … moments shared in time … with people that I cherish, adore, and love. You see … there are my parents and brother. My family who has been with me for as long as I can remember. They have cheered me on and walked beside me. Although I’m grown now and walk a bit of a different path that the ones they are on, these pictures gently remind me that they will always be there. Oh look .. that’s my son. My precious miracle whose very breath took mine away. He has had his share of struggles throughout his short life, but he always managed to come out with a smile. Pictures of him remind me what a miracle really is, and that no matter how hard of a day I may have, there is always a reason to keep going on. Finally, see this handsome man … that’s my one true love. We waiting for nearly 7 years for each other, with 4 of those years being spent completely apart. It was a long wait, but oh so well worth it. We eagerly look forward to the day when we will become one, sharing in a lifetime forever. Pictures of this sweet man show me what love is … show me that I am loved … show me that things are worth waiting for. For you see … all of these pictures represent more than paper or even the people in them … they represent memories that have given me nuggets of truth to succeed in life.
Ok … you’ve just finished up explaining about these three items and their immeasurable worth to you. The kind man’s smile slowly fades, as his face suddenly becomes very sullen. The translator tells you that while these items are lovely, this new country has a rule that only one item is allowed to be brought in. You touch each item with hesitancy, as you are forced to continue on with only one item. How would you feel?
Honestly, to know that I’d have to give up two of these items crushes my heart. All three are representations of who I am as an individual. They reveal my culture … my identity … my being. To carry on without all of them would leave me feeling a bit empty … hollow … alone. I wouldn’t feel whole. However, if this is a rule, I have to decide. Let the narrowing process begin:
* My Bible, although precious and wise, is a universal book. More than likely, I would be able to replace my Bible with another one that would be in the language of this new country. Yet, giving up my Bible, even with the thoughts of obtaining a new one in the future, leaves me feeling sad. I simply don’t feel like myself without it.
* My Family Pictures … these depict times of memories shared within my homeland. I don’t want to part from them and forget these delightful times shared with my family. Nonetheless, I am comforted by the fact that my immediate family was able to come with me to this new land. Although the family pictures were from our homeland, we would be able to take new pictures within this new country. The pictures won’t delete or even replace the memories, but the new pictures would be able to capture the individuals that instill character and virtue in me.
* My Blanket … Since the other two items have been choice to be left behind, I would pick my blanket. This is an object that is unique and non-replaceable. I would not be able to find this very blanket in this new country that has the same kind of meaning and history as this yellow blanket does.
Thankfully, the above scenario hasn’t actually happened. It was just a simulation exercise to trigger thoughts and emotions about how culture, diversity, and cultural differences are related to yourself personally and professionally. What did you learn?
Thinking about how much these items meant to me, I was able to see how much emotions are rooted within culture. An item wasn’t chosen just because it was handy or decorative. These items were picked based on connections to the past, my thoughts and emotions. When getting to know a family’s culture, I realized that it is important to learn the history behind this. What makes them happy? What comforts them when they are sad? How do they celebrate victory? Culture is entwined with emotions that truly affect a person’s behaviors and thoughts. As professionals, we should take the time to understand the rich history that is woven throughout a person’s culture.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for my next post J Here’s to a happy few weeks, as we explore about diversity and equity!