“One thing a person cannot do, no matter their imagination and vigor, is to draw up a list of things that will never happen to you.” _ Anonymous
This quote resonates with me because nobody ever expects to be displaced by war, violence, or hate. Too often we blame people who find themselves in desperate circumstances, and label them as we see fit to suit our political needs. Migrating to the United States helped me to better understand the many reasons people leave their homelands, but you don’t need to share these experiences in order to have compassion for people in need.
As the director of a refugee shelter, people often tell me that my work takes courage, and ask me how I have been able to move past what happened to me. I tell them that I have not put my past behind me. Instead, I have chosen to move forward with it, empowered by the compassion I have for others. Because I do not want anyone to go through the things I have gone through, I strive to serve as a bridge for people, to help people surpass obstacles they would not otherwise be able to.
Our society, by its very structure, oppresses minorities. If you are reading this, I hope you do not contribute to this polarization, because polarization has no benefits for society, and only succeeds in hurting people and creating an Us Versus Them mentality. Here are some steps we can all take to create a more open, welcoming society:
- Emphatic Listening: An Us Versus Them mentality makes it impossible for meaningful conversations to take place, and this increases polarization. We should all strive to truly hear people, to listen to them with as much empathy as possible. When we listen with empathy, we tell people that we see them, we hear them, and we believe them. And, when a person feels not just heard but understood, they will in turn be more ready to listen to what you have to say.
- Bridge the Gaps: Bridges serve to connect two sides that would otherwise be separated by an obstacle. For us to begin to reduce the polarity in today’s world, we need people ready, willing, and able to serve as bridges.
- Learn to Coexist: In chemistry, polar molecules can coexist. A molecule of water, or H20, is made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. In water, different elements coexist and combine into a functioning, stable whole. We, as a people, must also find ways to coexist, despite our differences.
I hope you found this helpful and can use it in creating a more welcoming and less polarized society.