|Leaving the nest; it's for the best.|
I count myself fortunate to have had this experience. I grew up in the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio, before finishing high school in the small city of Battle Creek and then living in East Lansing where I attended Michigan State University (a sizeable ‘town’ in its own right).
As a kid, I spent a handful of summers on my mom’s sister’s farm in the countryside just outside Youngstown, and every year my parents, sister and I spent a week or so in the mostly rural confines of southern New Jersey, where dad was born and raised.
|You'll learn so much.|
After earning my degree, I lived in the Texas city of Houston for a spell and later, smack dab in the midst of things in Los Angeles. Both were sprawling urban affairs. I also did a stint in the desert community of Indian Wells, California. All these places – large, small; hot, cold; fast, slow; progressive, conservative – all of them helped me see my hometown more clearly and relate to the people there in more human ways.
Vacations can get at this; so can church mission trips, but there’s a trap. First of all it’s short-term; a snapshot. Second, a lot of people who travel to exotic locales stay where they can be around their own kind – places where they can remain within the social security of their familiar cultural bubble. Safe from experiencing other ways of thinking, living and being. It is a sameness that tends to affirm a person’s own way of being as the only right way.
Yet in the end, doing so does their hometown a disservice. That’s why children need to go; because in order to understand and respect others – really understand and respect them – you must walk among them. In turn, it becomes easier back home to truly value neighbors and not merely tolerate and patronize them.
It’s easy for some to live in a far (or not so far) off place. For others, less so. Most of us have been conditioned not to readily accept difference. Yeah, we talk a good game, but at best we tolerate it; at worst we ridicule or even persecute it. Because it’s not our way. It’s not what we’re used to. It’s far too alien from our own experience to want to even think about, let alone appreciate. Or understand. Or respect.
But we’re hurting ourselves. And our neighbors across town. Or next door. That’s because by staying home, you never truly understand what it’s like to not be you or your kind. So for the sake of the community and your children’s cultural growth, encourage them to live for a time in another place. What they bring back might amaze you.