“I care about diversity,” a friend of mine said recently, “but it’s an abstract concept to me. Of course I think it’s important for people of color to have the same rights as I have, and I would vote for that, but there’s nothing I can do to change the situation.”
“Hmm,” I replied. “I respectfully disagree. There IS something you can do about it, right now.”
“You mean write letters to the editor and that sort of thing?”
“Well, that’s one possibility. But I’m thinking about something much more personal …”
She looked at me quizzically, which I took to mean that she wanted me to explain more.
“It’s not theoretical,” I said. “Let’s just say it’s a challenge, and you’d have to accept it.”
She started to laugh. “You and your challenges!” she said. “I remember when you challenged me to name all of my feelings for three days. I couldn’t believe what I discovered. I always thought of myself as emotionally restrained, but when I took the challenge I realized I was a hothouse of emotions. I was angry, sad, fearful, competitive, needy, and luckily there were feelings like gratefulness and love to balance out the other things.”
She was right about the challenges. I give them to myself quite frequently. And, when friends ask for help, I sometimes inquire if they are willing to take a challenge.
“So… are you willing to take this one?” I asked.
She laughed again. “I can say yes or no, right?”
There was a pause and I explained to her WHY I was suggesting this particular challenge. Ever since I was a small child, I have been fascinated by diversity. I was drawn to people who were different from me — not only in terms of race, but also in terms of age, religion, sexual orientation, beliefs, neuroses, hobbies, nationality, body type, and personality. As a writer, I explored what I learned from others in plays, screenplays, articles, essays, and public talks. I knew about myself, and people like me, but I wanted to learn about those who were NOT like me, and I wanted to share what I learned with others.
“So what’s the challenge?”
“You have 48 hours to talk to someone from another country or culture, and find out something about where they come from.”
“I’m in lockdown. I never see anyone except when I scurry in and out of grocery stores or get my teeth cleaned.”
“You don’t have to see the person. You just have to talk to them.”
“I don’t get it. How?”
“Well, you told me last week that you were on the phone for two hours with a computer tech and she saved you from tearing your hair out with frustration. A lot of tech help is outsourced. Did she have an accent?”
“Did you ask where she was located?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t think of it.”
“And you told me that you got take out food from an Indian restaurant last night. A place you went to a lot before the pandemic. Who took the order from you?”
“A waiter I know.”
“Do you know where in India he is from? “
“No. I never asked.”
“So now you get the challenge. You have 48 hours to connect to someone, anyone, from another culture or country, and ask the person to tell you something wonderful or interesting about his country or culture. Okay?”
My friend is an animal lover, and within a day she had connected to a woman from Costa Rica who told her fascinating things about the tapirs and three-toed sloths that were native to her country. Now my friend wants to go to Costa Rica. Within two days, she had spoken to a Mexican man who is a deer dancer, and now she is learning about that powerful spiritual dance.
So are YOU willing to take the challenge? You have 48 hours to find and connect to someone from another culture, whether they live in the USA or elsewhere, and learn something interesting. If their country of origin happens to be one that you have visited or wish to visit, the conversation can be both enlightening and bonding.
And then, if you wish, you can post about it on social media or tell your peeps about it. And you can post it right here, on PsychologyToday.com in the comments section at the end of this article. All of us would love to hear about it.
You are embarking on an adventure. All you have to do is open your heart and take the first challenge.
This content was originally published here.