My husband and I recently visited France and spent the majority of our time in Paris. Each morning, we charted our course for the day using Rick Steves’ 2012 Paris guide, slipped into comfortable shoes and hit the sidewalks. Doing so brought us up close and personal not only with the French people but a global community of residents and visitors, steeping themselves in the art, food, culture, romance, history and work-a-day world of glorious Paris.
Some of our accents required us to listen to each other with greater care. Frequently, we realized the need to increase background information in order for our stories to have the impact and understanding we desired. Beyond these simple accommodations, I’m amazed at the uniformity of our experiences as human beings. I’m moved by the decency and respect offered by the people we met along the way.
These people, who brought surprising depth to our trip, serve to remind me that we must stay keenly aware of our own cultural mindsets and understandings, ways of communicating and natural reactions. To do so allows us to sensitively share our ideas. And when those emotionally laden topics come up —- invariably involving politics or religion —- with practice, we can exhibit decent, universally acceptable behavior.
“Us” is the most surprising and operative word here. French television and newspapers are covering our presidential election with great interest, including our political ads. When standing back from it all, and listening to their analysts describe our debates, I found their commentaries introspective and most assuredly global: How will the American economy affect ours? At a time when we need deeper commitments to work cooperatively, does all the political mud-slinging signal a death of decorum?
This is what we heard: people deserve respect, regardless of the boiling caldrons within or the disparity in opinions. Regardless of personal preferences. Regardless of how hard we’ve worked to reach a particular level of expertise.
And because we share an increasing number of venues for our myriad discussions on topics spanning the globe, we must increase our devotion to being prepared for those discussions. After all, we want people to hear what we have to say. We want to give validity to our messages. We want to effect change. We want to be contributors to a better world.
This is all easier said than done, to be sure. There are explosive situations and topics that challenge even those who love a good debate. That’s why I increasingly turn to God and call for His spirit as my guide rather than leaning exclusively on my own strength. After all, I feel an obligation to make this one pass through life a positive one. I long to build rather than demolish. Ultimately, it’s not even about me. It’s not about our nation alone. Our community discussions have gone global. Our issues are more impacting. There are more people who will lose their quality of life. Our worries —- their worries — are genuine.
All the while, the author of peace and calm and power is there to empower and guide us, if we ask. With Him, we move forward. Without Him, the self-made soul grabs the mike and simply hollers, “Liar!”