ut of convenience and, I suppose, because of time constraints few people anywhere in world read news accounts and social media from countries outside their own. As part of my own work, however, I have the opportunity to do this regularly and each day I find stories like this one that make me smile inside at the many ways in which people are the largely the same, regardless of country or culture.
This particular story is about a random act of kindness that a newly married Turkish couple directed toward strangers in need and reading it reminds me that people throughout the world are kind and caring and giving. Before I fully shifted my learning focus outside of my own (very small) life and into the daily lives of people in far away cultures, I only saw these kinds of stories written about people in the U.S. By contrast, I consumed stories about other cultures and foreign people that focused on violence and war and other serious problems. Of course, the mere fact that these troubling events (e.g., war) are “news” means by default that they are rare because infrequent and outstanding events populate the news cycle both at home and abroad. The result in my own psyche, and surely the same is true for most (actually all) of us, is that I came to associate foreignness with unrest and misfortune — and less than upstanding people.
I learned from a relatively young age that this sort of ethnocentric thinking was also “wrong thinking” and so I never would have started sentences with “Those people…” or “People over there…” Unfortunately, none of this happens at the level of waking consciousness and it wasn’t until I traveled for long periods and actually lived abroad and gave myself to reading newspapers and watching television while living among ordinary people in other countries that I began to break through my subconscious biases. One thing that happened is that I started to see the narrowness of the coverage of my own home country because I saw few stories about ordinary Americans doing extraordinary things. I didn’t see, for example, stories that highlighted the random acts of kindness by Americans that were directed toward others in need — largely because there was no time or space for them in the media in foreign lands owing to the need to cover their own national concerns.
The other important thing that happened in my time abroad is that I saw random acts of kindness and goodness everywhere in the lives of people around me. In fact, every good and loving gesture or action that I ever witnessed at home I have observed in equal number and frequency everywhere I have every been. Sometimes I hear people say, “There are good people everywhere” but it gets lost amidst the blur of surface-level ideas that are bantered about and come to mean very little. So let me say it differently: THERE ARE GOOD PEOPLE EVERYWHERE. People throughout the world are magical and lovely and the vast majority of all of us want both loved ones and strangers to thrive.
Because these days my work keeps me so fully engrossed in everyday news from around the world–I read, for example, stories that my Pakistani friends post on Facebook only for their other Pakistani friends–I have daily reminders of people’s goodness. This exclamation that that there are “good people everywhere” is so much more than a pithy statement as I have the opportunity to keep my heart open toward foreign people living seemingly foreign lives.
I’d love to invite people to read this story and then bring it back into your consciousness the next time you encounter someone from another culture. In all likelihood this person who you meet has already been part of some grand act of giving like this in their home country, just like most people you know from your own homeland have done something similar.
Here’s a short presentation about the scope of the problem with footage of the happy couple. People are pretty damn cool.