“I Don’t Like That Man.  I Must Get to Know Him Better.”

A critical aspect to trying new things, which many of us commonly forget, is that having those new experiences can allow us to meet new people.  The above quote was given by President Abraham Lincoln and is a statement that has heavily influenced the way I think.  Every time I find myself in a position in which I dislike or even fear another person or group of people I work hard to learn more about them.  The more I know, the more I find myself appreciating, even loving, those individuals.

A little over a year ago I returned from an incredible experience.  For eighteen months I had spent nearly all day every day just talking to people who lived in the great state of Michigan.  I met people from all walks of life, wealthy and poor, male and female, religious and atheist, the list goes on and on.  Previous to these experiences I knew very little about the eastern religions, such as Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism.  While I was not prejudice against those who practiced such beliefs, I did find them a bit strange and was uncomfortable around it.

These concerns were quickly swept away as I began my work.  I started work in the city of Grand Rapids which I discovered to be a melting pot of different cultures and beliefs.  Early on I met a wonderful Muslim couple, Adan and Fatima, who explained their beliefs to my friend and I in depth.  I began to understand that the Islamic faith is heavily focused in serving our fellow man and devoting oneself to goodness for the sake of showing faith in God. 

While I didn’t share all of their beliefs, I was able to appreciate their devotion and kindness and found a strong appreciation for Islam itself.  Similarly, I met several people who believed in Buddhism and Hinduism and had a similar experience.  It became more and more clear to me that no one is all bad, just as no one is all good, but we are all experiencing the trials life has to offer together.  Every person we meet is trying, just like us, to find ways to cope and find joy, despite the pain of living.

Summer is such a great time to try new things and travel to new places.  As you do so, get to know new people.  Who knows, you may make a new friend.  If nothing else, spending time talking to another person and showing an interest in their life may just make their day. Perhaps an even harder challenge would be to get to know someone better whom you have not gotten along with in the past.  Applying this principle will benefit you exponentially, not only in your private life, but will also increase your value in the eyes of future employers and teachers.  It’s a habit more people should gain as it would make the world a much happier place.