“Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that I need to value people who are like me just as much as people who are different from me,” my coworker admitted as we walked home from a Thanksgiving dinner for international students. He had hoped to meet new international students but instead, due to seating arrangement, had ended up spending the dinner talking with a middle-aged woman who was a white American, like he was.
As someone who is preparing to spend a significant amount of time living in another country, I get excited about meeting people who have different cultural backgrounds from my own. Tonight I got to hang out with a woman who just moved from Saudi Arabia. We talked about our hobbies and homelands. We took a few selfies.
As my coworker reminded me, in such interactions, the reward is immediate. Sometimes, what takes greater discipline and commitment is spending time with the people who are culturally similar to me, the ones who want to hear where I am going and will support me even when I return.
As I prepare to return home for Thanksgiving tomorrow, I remember the importance of my origins. I choose to acknowledge and honor that no matter how far I go, there will always be one table where I have been known from the start. I am thankful that I have roots as well as branches, that I have the privilege of connecting with multiple communities and learning how we are all same/different.