I believe that people all over the world are much more alike than they are different.
I have lived the majority of my life in a time with great potential for figuring this out. I have grown up in a generation of instant messaging, paying cell phone bills, searching for cheap airfare online, facebook, and constant emailing.
Yet in my lifetime, I have also witnessed war, poverty, terrorism, and vast inequality.
In travels to India during college, vast inequality literally tapped me on the shoulder and I turned around to look it in the eyes; the sad sunken eyes of a dirty, frail, five-year-old girl, gesturing from me to the mouth of the rag-wearing toddler in her arms. I was at a road side stand buying myself an India Today and a miniature banana; I knew I could turn around and buy all of the bananas in the stand for just a couple of dollars.
In a world filled with such potential for cross-cultural sharing and friendships, I believe that evil, like that I witnessed in India, exists because we are afraid of “others.” We are terrified of what we believe is different from us.
In English class my sophomore year of high school, we read the Scarlet Letter, and I wrote in my journal: to accept others is not easy, to accept ourselves is harder, and to accept the fact that others and ourselves are alike is the most difficult.
At sixteen I related to the fictional character of Hester Prynne and believed in the idea of the words I wrote in my journal; at twenty three I have lived these words, and they are apart of me.
I have been privileged in my young life to meet and love many “others”: kindergarteners with no shoes in Salvador; the woman who taught me to Irish dance at a pub in Dublin; a farming family in India; university students in Beijing; cab drivers in Burma; AIDS patients in Cape Town.
I know that fearing “others” is a waste of energy, as “others” are not actually so different from me. No matter what country I was in, no matter the language barrier, I found myself in all situations with some commonality. Everywhere, I have played some form of ring-around-the-rosie or hide-and-go seek with children, drew pictures, cried, sang, laughed, and gave hugs.
I still agree with my sixteen-year-old journal jotting: accepting the fact that others and ourselves are alike is definitely difficult. It takes a willingness to feel uncomfortable, afraid, even terrified.
Yet, allowing myself to figure out that people all over the world are much more alike than they are different has made me less angry, and less afraid of the seemingly complicated world I live in. It has given me the hope and strength needed to bring awareness to others that a simpler world of peace and equality is possible.