I have a tendency to always look for qualities that are shared by people universally. As I look for common bonds that connect us, I can't help but notice all the things that are different about us (us being members of the human species).
We have different interests, different gifts, different skills, different desires and different fears. We're different ages, we live in different environments, we have different life-styles, we have different histories, different political opinions and we come from different cultures. We have different taste in foods, style and manners. We come in different sizes, shapes and colors. We have different stories of our pasts and different dreams for the future.
I can go on and on here, but I would prefer to look at a very basic truth of what makes us the same, and that is a desire for connection. Regardless of our age, color, history or dreams, we all want to belong. Although many of us prefer to live or work alone, we want to know we are connected to others at some level.
In my work with Project: Inside Out, http://www.projectinsideout.org/, I see teens of varied backgrounds, cliques and GPA standing, come together not to compare their differences, but to focus on what they share in common. Differences are seen as unique, individual qualities, rather than things to compare. With knowing ahead that all students in the program agree to be respectful and kind, each teen feels safe to be authentically present. Ironically, it is the acceptance of the differences that allows for deeper connection.
Imagine a world where we of all ages, colors, shapes and backgrounds live together peacefully, creating deeper, more meaningful connections as we celebrate and learn from our differences.
As I watch students open up, allowing themselves to be seen, it gives me hope that connection will some day matter more than the things we believe keeps us separate.