Understand and Appreciate People Different From You

During a chapel message to Huntington University students in early September, I presented five practical tips for modeling unity as believers within a diverse community. Here is the first one.

1. Understand and appreciate each others’ diverse backgrounds, cultures, and experiences.

Sometimes when something is different than our own culture and experience, we tend to dismiss it or think it’s funny or unusual.

When I worked at another institution more than 20 years ago, we brought inner city kids from New York City to a very rural community to spend time camping and hiking in the woods. It was an eye-opening experience. These students were used to being on the street and hearing the noise of sirens, jackhammers, cars, and the sound of busy city life. But when taken into the country, they were scared to death. Scared of the silence at night. Scared that a bear or other wild animal might come out to attack them. Scared that someone might come into their tent at night to harm them.

Just as I would be scared in their inner city environment, they were scared in my environment in a rural, wooded community.

You will encounter people who don’t do things the same way you do them; people who have different life experiences and cultural traditions and norms. I encourage you to listen, observe, understand, and appreciate each other’s backgrounds, cultures, and experiences and work to understand their hearts and concerns.

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