A few weeks ago I met the US Ambassador to The Philippines. He was not very tall. He was about my height (5’8″ or so), but he was a whole lot wider and somehow even though he wasn’t tall, he seemed larger than life. If you just saw him and never spoke to him you would be intimidated. However, shortly after meeting him he was warm, amusing, and a man who most people could probably easily respect. I only saw him for 20 minutes and actually only heard him speak for less than that, but I definitely formed a positive impression of him.
3 other Peace Corps volunteers and I were present during a Q&A session with him. We decided that this was probably more for the Peace Corps staff and thus didn’t say anything. However, right as the session was closing he called us out. He wanted to know what was on the minds of the young Americans in the room. The first of us was Meghan. She asked him how he ended up being an ambassador. What were his motivations? He comically answered, “I needed a job” he went into more detail about how he originally wanted to work for the C.I.A., but life took him down many different roads that apparently eventually led to ambassador. The last question was presented by me. I wanted to know what he learned about people during his travels around the world.
He said exactly what I wanted to hear. He told me that people have more similarities than differences.
I am reminded of his words every time I see my landlady make what I deem an unnecessary purchase. I often think, “Why is saving not a concept here?” And then I realize that ALL people have an innate desire to HAVE. That’s what we call materialism and even though I try to suppress that desire in myself, it doesn’t mean that I don’t have it. I am reminded of what he said every time someone calls out, “Hey Joe!” towards me or leans over to a friend and whispers “Negro ‘yan” (That’s a black guy) I initially think, “Why are they so focused on what makes us different?” And then I realize we all notice differences in others and make opinions based on that. That’s what we call discrimination and even though I suppress that urge in myself, it doesn’t mean that I don’t do it. I am reminded every time I see one of the kids just toss trash on the ground. I think, “Why can’t they see that proper waste disposal will help them in the long run?” And then I realize that we all like to take the easy way out. That’s what we call laziness or apathy and even though I try not to embody those traits, I do embody them more often than I’d like.
I could go on and on with several examples of me realizing the hypocrisy of every judgment call I make here in The Phillies. However, that is negative and I don’t want a few observations here and there to evolve into more than they really are. I realize that the problems I have with this culture are just a modified version of the problems I have with American culture. And they’re the things that I don’t like about myself.
Materialistic. Prejudiced. Lazy.
Nobody wants to be known as these things, yet we all are at one point or another. It’s part of being human. And strangely enough there is something comforting in that.
What’s comforting about the fact that we all deal with the same weaknesses?
It means that we can all change. It means we can all improve.
and . . .
It means we probably also have the same strengths.
– Brandon Holly –