Live inquisitively, not judgmentally

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Indian Toilet

Recently my daughter’s teacher told my wife that our incessant moving around the country seems to have benefitted her quite a bit.

I was taken aback by this, feeling a father’s guilt at loving a career too much to the detriment of the well-being of my children.

It seems Gabbers has a keen understanding of political boundaries like counties and state lines, well above that of her second-grade peers.

Her teacher even said that she had learned things about places and people because of her interactions with Gabrielle.

I shouldn’t be surprised.

This was my education too.

Exposure is the single most powerful equalizer. We say walk a mile in his or her shoes, but most of the time it’s just a saying.

If we were to actually do it, the world would not be the same.

There is nothing more valuable than experience, because it is a scientific process that we cannot help but learn from.

It’s repetition, like driving from Alaska to Illinois. It’s 4,000 miles across a continent, two countries, five states and countless counties.

You can’t help but become familiar with political boundaries on a trip like that.

You don’t even have to leave the United States to experience abject poverty or to use an outhouse as an every day toilet.

You probably don’t have to leave your county to begin to understand that not everyone lives the same as you do.

To experience it once is often enough to change your mindset.

That’s why I’m such a big fan of experiencing things, especially things that cause us to grow whether we consciously want them to or not.

I think that’s why I was bothered by so much social media coming out of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia focusing on the negatives.

There certainly is a reason to bemoan, if not report on, the misspent billions, but if you’ve been to Russia, it’s kind of par for that course.

When I saw a post highlighting the shock one person felt when they saw a sign that told people to throw toilet paper in a waste basket rather than flush it, I knew instantly that the person did not have experiences.

Yes, they were having one at that moment, and hopefully they understand a little more that the rest of the world does not waste billions of gallons of water on sewer systems that can handle that kind of solid waste.

I must have made a fool of myself countless times traveling to new places. Each experience a pleasant surprise or an unnerving embarrassment.

I’m just really thankful social media wasn’t nearly as prevalent then.

Just last year at Chicago’s Christkindlmarket, I posted a picture of a bunch of pigeons gathered around a flaming pipe in Daley Plaza.

My post read: “Chicago pigeons have it good in Chicago, they get little warming fires for cold nights.”

I was a short time later that one of my colleagues let me know that the thing I had desecrated was an eternal flame memorial to the dead from World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

We all make mistakes, and social media compounds them.

Sometimes Americans are blamed for being ethnocentric and rather ignorant about other places.

Expecting the Russian Olympic Games to be as sharp and modern as Nagano or Salt Lake City shows off some of this ignorance.

But it’s difficult to judge people for their concern over the disappearance of $50 billion with nothing to show for it but a decrepit resort community at the base of the Caucus Mountains.

Still, if you’re going to Sochi, or anywhere else for that matter, stop for a few minutes at least. Better a few days. And experience everything you can. Read a little history. Get to know Russian culture and understand why billionaires can hang out there without investing in infrastructure.

You won’t regret your posts this way.

Because you’ll understand why some people throw shit-stained toilet paper in the waste basket instead of in the toilet.

You’ll understand that the water in many parts of the world is not safe. Never mind the color.

You’ll understand that the lives of people in other places do not look anything like yours. And you’ll begin to wonder why, and this will lead you to amazing discoveries that will not only change your life, it will change other lives through the way you experienced it.

Live inquisitively, not judgmentally

– Tim




2 thoughts on “Live inquisitively, not judgmentally”

  1. I’ve found that how I react to differences when I travel—in plumbing and otherwise—depends at least partly on my mindset at the outset. If I expect plush accommodations, I’m indignant about a faucet that doesn’t work. But if I’m ready to stretch my boundaries, then perching on a squat toilet simply becomes part of the adventure. I hope the visitors to Sochi use the trip to become a little more flexible and empathize with the majority of people on the planet who live differently than we do and—the horror—don’t have toilets that can flush TP.

    1. I appreciate that Catherine. And I completely agree. To go to a place where you expect the accommodations to be pristine and find it lacks what it advertises is definitely upsetting. There are differences in the way people view luxury too. Sochi is viewed as a luxury resort playground of the rich, and it is, but rich oligarchs were once poor and didn’t often inherit that proverbial silver spoon. So even their view of luxury is different than our is. They’ll buy caviar and still use a squatty potty without ever worrying about how porcelain improvements can be made to make their lives easier. I think many people went to Sochi expecting it to be like the French Riviera.

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