Travelling through the Northwest with the University Choir and Orchestra for two weeks and staying with a different host family every night seemed daunting. As I lay in the dark and let my back decompress, I thought, “If only I could just stay with my comfy blankets instead of putting them in a box and being at the mercy of host families for two weeks.”
Then the stupidity of that thought hit. Even though never leaving my comfortable bed and familiar roommate seemed welcoming, as my tired eyes squeeze even more tightly shut, I knew I would be missing out on a great experience.
That statement was proven true by weeks of singing in different churches, experiencing the cultures of other states and meeting a lot of dissimilar but admirable people.
Even CBU has its own burlap-trimmed, coffee-scented and typography-filled subculture to which students have become accustomed. On campus it is common to receive a smile from a total stranger and see more men wearing bow-ties than standard ones. Although we recognize each person has a personal story and cultural background, it is much more comfortable to stay cozied in with our like-minded, matching-bow-tie friends.
When we venture outside our small world and engage with people from other cultures, a growing experience happens. While I was traveling with the choir, I got to listen to a lot of people’s stories and share my own. It’s not that I agreed with everyone I talked to, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t learn from them. If anything, differing perspectives can be the means for important discussions and serve to better both people. Listening without the need to immediately interrupt or interject your own thoughts and opinions is the best way to grow.
With so much opportunity on campus to interact with others from different cultural backgrounds, there is an opportunity for learning that can’t happen in a lecture. When we have no intention to see from other’s perspectives and don’t care to learn from others who are different from us, we cut off communication before “hello.” The solution is simple, but the practice is hard. Moving outside of the familiar and into a place of intentional listening can be the beginning of learning from those different from yourself.