I have been blessed during my career to meet, observe, talk to and share time with many ‘good’ people. Not only are these people hard working, clever, successful and empathetic to the needs of the various groups of people they deal with day to day… they have a wisdom that enables them to deal with matters of change and stress in a considered and calm manner. It’s not that they have all the answers or they do not have to invest time and resources into managing the impact of change and stress on their world. It is the calm way they cope with these issues and keep perspective.
I have observed these people to share a higher than average interest in human diversity. Whether it is traced back to their own roots or journeys they have taken to seek out, observe and learn from people, cultures and societies that run on a different values and belief system to their own.
In this internet age where so much stimulus is available with a finger stroke of a mobile phone, there is such a ‘First World sameness’ in much of the stimulus sought. This ‘sameness’ hinders the development of understanding and empathy for difference, and ultimately our ability to use this empathy to help us deal with change and stress.
I recently had an opportunity to experience this first hand on a trip to India. I will confess from the outset that I was not overly keen to visit, as I had already pre-‘judged’ the deficiencies of a 1.2 billion 3rd world country. I did not appreciate its value and belief systems as they appeared to underpin a standard of living that I considered far more limited to the minimum standard I would expect. I was not ‘Robinson Crusoe’, as the same sentiments were communicated by many people who also had not and were unlikely to visit India.
So on arriving in Delhi, I put my instinct to ‘judge’ on hold and I was rewarded with a wonderfully enlightening experience. The value and belief system that have underpinned a country of 1.2 billion for more than 4,000 years has much to offer us. The Western ‘sameness’ stimulus filling our kid’s digital channels generally has a very short term message of entitlement which does little to build empathy on how the majority of people live. We can learn so much from people from such diverse places like India, whether it be their curious stares and infectious smiles; or their tolerance towards all living things; or their deeply spiritual beliefs that enables them to endure and live.
Observing how they deal with their difficult circumstances with such limited resources have helped me put the issues I deal with into perspective and helped me deal with them in a far calmer and considered way.
So there is much wisdom and empathy to be gained by seeking out and embracing difference.