How Tolerance Creates Change
After a semi-busy day of meetings we returned to our hotel room to the sound of loud, bangging, repetitive music that was, in all honesty, quite annoying. I wanted to just try and ignore it, but Lisa insisted upon going exploring to see what was going on. I would have to say that although her good ideas are few and far between, this was a rare good one (haha only joking of course) The source of the mayhem were the celebrations of a recently married couple, along with about 50 or so family members in traditional Hindi dress happily carrying on. We looked on from a distance, confused as to what was going on, when a nice middle aged Hindi man involved with the wedding approached us. In his broken English, he tried to explain to us the many cultural points of interest involved in the traditional ceremonies. I got bits and pieces of what he was trying to explain, but the real enjoyment started when, surprisingly, he and his wife invited Lisa and I into his home for a cup of tea. We really didn’t even think twice about accepting his offer. It seems odd that we would randomly walk into the fourth story house of a man we just met ten minutes ago, but its common practice here in Nepal. The couple was just genuinely interested in us and appreciative that we stopped to watch what was going on and to experience Nepali culture first hand…and I must say that lady’s tea was some of the best I’ve had here (and we have had a lot of tea!). They were so accepting of us; we looked nothing like them, shared any of the same interests that I know of, spoke the same language, or even knew each others name. He didn’t judge Lisa and I even one bit for the clothes we wore, what we looked like, or any of the rest of it. It was one of the purest examples of tolerance that I have ever seen.
That made me think back to a conversation I had not so long ago with my mother actually. She had just gotten back from spending time with the mother of one of my youngest sister’s close friends. I not at all sure how the conservation started or came to this point, but this women made harsh (well down right racists) comments about a general group of people whose skin was darker than that of hers. I won’t put words in this ladies mouth but comments steered toward the direction that dark skinned people shouldn’t be intermingled with light skinned people, and that if her daughter ever brought home a darker skinned man to meet the family, she would disown her (again maybe not the exact words used, but the context of things she said resembled these thoughts). At first, I was absolutely outraged to hear that this lady spoke like that; anger even started to seep through my pours as I wanted to march right down to her house and tell her what I thought of her. As I gave it about a half hour to sink in, however; my anger toward her turned to sadness and a bit of pity, wondering how such an ignorance could remain in the mind of an educated women living in a western culture. I also know that with how disturbed I was with her comments; there are plenty of others that share the same sentiment, or other ways of thought that single out a group of people for something that they simply cannot help or something they deeply believe in(skin color and religious beliefs most generally but any others could apply)
It happens all across the world in almost every facet in life, with just about every person who ever lived participating (including myself). We are so quick to anger, so quick to misjudge the intentions of others while only looking at a situation though our own eyes, rather than stepping into the shoes of the man on the other side of the coin. Our grudges and belief systems are so deeply entrenched that we often fail to realize what the thoughts and viewpoints of others could bring to the table. We can’t bring ourselves to make the small daily sacrifices in our lives needed to make huge impacts in the lives of others. We see difference in thought as problematic or stupid rather than interesting and insightful. I am human as well, and I make every one of the same judgments I just mentioned from time to time.
I feel the way to sustainable change, however; is to come to the realization that we all generalize people, but to move forward we need to try to make improvements every day. Just because we wouldn’t wear a cloak covering our entire body with the exception of an eye-slit to see, doesn’t mean we need to generalize the thoughts of an Arabian women who does so in a western culture. If we see a man tattooed from head to toe, that does not mean that his intentions are evil. If we can start to realize the good in people by giving them a chance to show good, our tolerance will lead to great things, not to mention a greater understanding of human nature in general. While positive things can be accomplished with simple unnoticed good deeds, real large scale change only happens when people convince others that tolerance towards others is the key. When this thought is practiced by just a few, good deeds spread like wildfire!