In the wake of an election season that has rocked the entire world, unity has never been more important. We need to find ways to support each other – not rip each other apart. We need to offer solidarity – not division. We need to celebrate our wonderful differences and recognize the similarities we share with each other.
Throughout the many years I have been traveling, both domestically and internationally, nothing has struck me harder than the reality that people are people everywhere.
We talk differently, we eat different foods, we celebrate in unique ways. But our hopes and dreams, our fears and failures, family life and falling in love…these are all the same. We are united by our humanity.
Living in another country highlights the many things we have in common, while celebrating how eclectic we are. Having lived as an American expat in multiple countries over the last decade, I couldn’t contain my sheer horror at some of the rhetoric that came up during the campaign. Statements vilifying entire groups of people and proposing murdering the families of alleged terrorists. Diatribes against the media and complete disregard for freedoms and protections provided by the Constitution.
When I woke up on November 9th and realized that enough people in the U.S. supported (or at least didn’t mind) that hateful rhetoric – well, that was a moment I’ll not soon forget.
Since the election, I’ve had to come to terms with myself. I’ve been forced to realize that my own silence has made me complicit in these divisive times. My lack of vocal support for my neighbors and friends around the world has made me just as guilty in our new circumstances.
But make no mistake – I have learned my lesson.
I will no longer stay silent while my neighbors are attacked for their skin color.
I will not stand by while my neighbors are vilified for their sexuality.
I won’t ignore my neighbors being castigated for their religious beliefs – or lack thereof.
I will not avoid confrontation while my neighbors are demonized for their gender or gender identity.
I refuse to be complicit in this hatred and creation of “The Other” while I carry on with my own life. I have tried to walk a line of diplomacy in my public life – afraid to perhaps lose clients or future work should I offend anyone. But I would rather starve than work with someone who thinks that others are lesser.
My Personal Declaration
I will no longer stay silent. I will defend my neighbors around the world. I will offer a safe space and friendship. I will use my privilege and recognize that it obligates me to speak up.
We have reached a point of no return. In years past, we could theorize that we were moving toward a more inclusive society. Now, there are no doubts. There are a great many people who have proven that theory wrong.
So now it’s time to get to work. I have always shown my support for a variety of organizations working to support marginalized groups. I even did some of that work myself. But, recently, I have slacked off, thinking we were headed in the right direction anyway. Recently, I have just assumed that my experience mirrors that of others, so of course we would continue to progress.
I was wrong. So I’ll no longer assume anything and I will use my experiences to shed light on these issues.
So I’ll start here. I’ll start with my neighbors.
Wherever you live, do you know your neighbors? Do you even talk to them? Could you tell me anything of importance about anyone in your daily vicinity? Who are they, really? When we don’t even talk to the people who live next door to us, we can’t possibly expect to understand them.
Wherever you live, reach out to your neighbor. Knock on a door. Stop and actually talk instead of calling out a cursory passing greeting. Ask questions. Communicate.
Being a good neighbor is important for so many reasons, not least of which is safety and security. If you don’t even know who lives next to you, who will care if you have a problem and need help? Will your neighbors who don’t even know your name come rushing to your aid in a time of need? Or will they instead hide behind closed curtains and pretend the problem is not their own?
Being a good neighbor means caring for each other, lifting each other up when needed and supporting each other in community endeavors. It means buying Girl Scout cookies and purchasing raffle tickets to support the local elementary schools. It’s shoveling snow for an elderly neighbor and planting trees with the kids down the street. It’s block parties and birthday parties; it means bringing over a precooked meal after a loved one has passed.
Being a good neighbor is integral to a functional society.
Be More – Be a Global Neighbor
Being a Global Neighbor means understanding that these interactions don’t just happen between physically next-door houses. Being a Global Neighbor means reaching out across cultures, across languages, across religions, across races, across borders.
It means understanding that moving to a new place and becoming an expat makes you an ambassador for your home country as much as it forces you to learn about your new home. It’s making an effort in every situation to reach out and to bridge a divide. And, yes, it means stepping outside of your comfort zone to strike up a conversation with a stranger.
Being a Global Neighbor means being a traveler who wants to understand a new place – not just a tourist who wants a passport stamp and an item checked off a bucket list.
Be a Global Neighbor. Be someone who stands up against hate because your experience proves that we are more alike than we are different. Be the person who confronts hate with the story of a neighbor, a friend, a family member who dispels the myth of “The Other.” Be a Global Neighbor who redefines those stereotypes and labels.
Wherever you are in the world, reach out and say hello. Break down a barrier instead of building a new one. Learn from each other. Empathize and encourage connections, not divisions.
Most importantly, listen to each other. There’s been enough screaming and yelling; now it’s time to listen. There is so much hurt and very valid fear in America right now. Make a difference in your own community simply by being a good neighbor and showing that you care for and support every member of your community.
Be a Global Neighbor who recognizes the similarities we all share, but still celebrates the differences that make us interesting. Be someone who travels, whether it’s across an ocean or just across the street to knock on a door and say hello. We could all use more connections and more understanding…let’s start with our neighbors.
If you want to share your story about being a Global Neighbor, get in touch on social media with #globalneighbor. Share love and understanding, share new friendships and celebrations. Show off our common – and wonderfully eclectic – humanity.
We are all in this life together, folks. Let’s work together to make it better for everyone.
Do you agree? Show the world you’re ready to be a better global neighbor.
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