I’m pretty lucky. I’ve been a lot of places, and I’m just barely twenty. I’ve seen different cities, states, and countries, and with each place I go, I learn that people have so much culture. Language, fashion, food, music . . . it all varies from place to place. This summer I’ve been learning to appreciate it. I’ve traveled thousands of miles to Sioux Falls, Colorado, California, Tennessee, and the Netherlands, and each one is incredibly different from the other.
I’m learning that if you can choose between Starbucks and a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop, pick the unknown place every time. If you’re standing in line at a restaurant you’ve never been to, ask the locals “If you knew you were never coming here again, what would you order?” I’m learning that sometimes you need to get on a plane and go to that place you’re dying to visit; whether it’s to see loved ones or just to get out and have a new experience, buy the dang tickets. Turn off your wifi and cellular when you go out, or better yet just leave your phone at home, and see how it changes the way you interact with the people you’re with. When people recommend books to you, actually read them; make notes of what you learned and thank the person who recommended it to you.
Ask people for their stories. Each person has so much to offer, but often times we just don’t talk about it. Get to know people. Learn about their awkward date to junior prom, what their favorite song is, and how they take their coffee. Play hackey sack with strangers. Eat doughnuts at midnight with your close friends. Wake up early and watch the sunrise; stay up late and learn the constellations.
Most importantly, I can respectfully tell you not to think of yourselves as being more important than you are. Avoid thinking you are better than others or wiser than the rest. Never think that you can’t learn something from someone. Each one of us is joined with one another, and we become together what we could not be alone. Love others well, and don’t hide behind a mask; love authentically. Being your true, vulnerable self and letting others be their true, vulnerable self, is the true definition of love. (Quotes from Romans 12 [The Voice Translation])
Life is beautiful, and there is so much more to the world than our own tiny perception of it. You walk past of hundreds of living stories every day; imagine what life would look like if you learned them.