Updated: May 1, 2020
I'm accidentally a little bit of a worrier, maybe an over-thinker would be a better term, actually. Of course no one would choose to be that, so I guess it's silly I call it an accident. But I don't tend to worry about the big stuff, for better or for worse, such as: "Will I make my flight? Will I have enough money? Will I be safe?" I worry about super small, very fixable problems like: "What happens if my bag doesn't fit under the seat in front of me? Do my braided pigtails make me stand out too much in New York City? What constitutes as a good shoe I can walk in for miles which are also durable in the rain?" I know- I'm super weird. I'll stress about my choice in sweaters and whether they are appropriate for every weather and occasion I could possibly encounter in a day, before I think twice about whether it's safe to sit and chat with a homeless man in Central Park at dusk.
But I kind of like that about myself.
The other day, one of my kindergarten students said, "I just like the whole world." Can I put that on a billboard, please? I think as people, there's a side of us that likes to be afraid, because that means our way of life can't be wrong. Our mentality consciously or subconsciously tends towards, "If I make you the different one, the minority one, or the wrong one, then you're someone to fear, and I'm not. If your lifestyle is wrong, then I'm right." We use our fear as a bit of a power play to stay in control, and while that may keep us "safe", I'm not sure that keeps us loved.
Currently, I teach at an elementary school which is 90% immigrants ranging from Mexico, Honduras, to Nepal, Vietnam, and Eastern Europe. We're an International Baccalaureate School and my favorite part of the IB Mission statement is "other people, with their differences, can also be right." This summer I have the opportunity to teach children who've been affected by conflict in Amman, Jordan. I'm elated to go to Jordan for numerous reasons. While teaching is a huge passion of mine, doing good is not the only reason I'm going. I want to see, taste, and experience how other people and their differences can also be right. I believe so strongly in sharing life and telling stories. It's so much harder to be afraid of a people when you love someone who identifies within that people. I think how we carry the stories of each other matters so greatly. I want to care and nourish and water the relationships I've been given, because I think we've been entrusted to love each other deeply and genuinely during our time on Earth.
I want to collect stories, put them in my pocket, and bring them home because sheesh! if it'll make us a little less afraid of each other, then sign me up a million times over. We all have our preconceived notions, biases, and stories of other cultures and other people. What makes the difference is when we take the time and hold the space to allow each other to be something different than the stories we've been told, ya feel me? When we allow someone to be our neighbor instead of our enemy, it's not a power struggle, it's an equalizer because we both want the good of each other. I hope a friendship that I make, a life I encounter, a story I get to share, will make the Muslim world a little less scary for my Western friends, and the Western world a little less scary for my Muslim friends. I think that's what happens when we carry each other well. Instead of looking at someone with worry and fear of what's different, we get to look at each other with wonder, curiosity, and love because we have friendship to gain, a story to share, and a life we've been entrusted to love well.
I'm doing some fundraising for my trip to Jordan.
If you'd like to learn more or donate, please visit: https://www.gofundme.com/laurasgoingtojordan