Today’s post was contributed by a member of my private Facebook group, GRANDwomen with Moxie: Where Loneliness Disappears. Merry Lynch Pavlak offers a fascinating perspective as an expat living in Poland and coming together with other cultures.
Certainly, by now, you know that you have some gifts that you could share with the world. And for those of you that can’t think of anything — I say get over yourself and dig deep.
Look at the world around you and find a person, place, or thing that could use some help and go lend a hand. I look at helping others as the rent that I pay for my time on Earth.
Recently, I have been volunteering at the local university. This is in the country I am now residing in which is Poland. And let me say if you don’t know this already, I do not speak Polish or any other language.
In conjunction with educational facilities, the US State Department funds a program called American Corner. Not only in Poland, but around the globe. Feeling very blessed in my life, I felt it is the least I could do. I get to meet people from around the globe who want to improve their English or meet their first American.
I am part of a workshop called, Conversation Club, which meets once a week. Pretty much we sit in a circle and begin talking about a specific subject. The idea is to get each participant to speak, which depending on the topic, can be a challenge. People get stuck in their heads — they worry their English isn’t good enough. They are afraid to speak.
Where does that kind of thinking show up in your life?
The people that come to American Corner are from all different races, religions, and ethnicities. Not to mention all ages.
American Corner is free to the public and provides a small library. It offers workshops and programs, such as the one I attend. Different people show up to each meeting, so it is a mixed bag. Being held in the local university, many attendees are students from around the world.
DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW
It is interesting to have Russians sitting next to Poles or Ukrainians. The history between these countries has been horrific at best and the wounds are still there. I have to say that I was a little nervous about being in a room with strangers from opposing countries. Particularly, those that are still at odds and at war.
After all, what do I know about war? It is eye-opening, not only for me, but I hope for the students as well.
One evening, we went around the room, taking turns talking. We spoke about what each will do and where they will live after they graduate.
A Ukrainian student spoke up saying that he cannot return to his home because it was destroyed by the Russians last week. He spoke about his family, some that were killed and others who have fled and have nowhere to live. A young Russian student was sitting straight across from him and their eyes met.
The conversation that ensued was fascinating. You could see how words get misconstrued and how communication gets altered.
To keep the conversation friendly, I began to ask others about their homelands. About the conflicts that arise. The participants from Turkey, Syria, and Azerbaijan all had something to say. They spoke up about the recent conflicts in their countries.
We were able to talk about problems and possible solutions. As well as the deep-seated problems of these different regions around the globe.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
You know the saying “it takes a village to raise a child?” It’s about people coming together. These attendees were not mad at each other. They wanted to understand why it was necessary to hurt one another or to take away what they had and then destroy it.
How do we then, each of us, place kindness toward one another? How can we put the past aside? Can we learn to trust, after all the desecration?
Have we learned anything from history? It seems to me that it just keeps on repeating itself. It’s the bully in the sandbox that wants it all.
How can we bring up children to be accepting of one another? What role as parents and grandparents can we play a larger part in? The participants at American Corner wanted to understand one another. How can we get that to take shape outside the doors of this program?
What fears or misunderstandings do you harbor against another race, religion or culture? What will it take to put down your fist and open your hand? Maybe by volunteering and serving others that are less fortunate, you could begin to see that people are the same everywhere.
We all want love, happiness, and fulfillment. Our past should not define us. Be the change you wish to see in the world. You might be surprised who will become your next best friend.
Have you considered joining a group such as American Corner? What gifts are you sharing with the world? Please share with me in the comments.
Hi! I’m Merry and I specialize in igniting human potential.
We all have dreams, and it’s my professional passion to help you achieve the life you’re dreaming of. Through vision boarding, 1:1 coaching, or my unique in-depth life envisioning courses, we’ll get you started on your brave new second act in life. Find me at BravingMidlife.com