I have just returned from an incredible trip to Italy, Greece, and Turkey! Wow! I met wonderful people and learned so much! With eyes wide open (and camera clicking away), I soaked in all the new sights, sounds, tastes and experiences around me.
One afternoon, enjoying a quiet moment of pause in a quaint Greek café that was tucked away down a cobblestone lane, and while savoring homemade baklava and sipping coffee from a teeny tiny cup—it occurred to me! Well, what first hit me was that this must be the strongest coffee on the planet. Then it occurred to me that while we may live continents apart and have different traditions, histories, laws; we speak different languages, have different currency, politics, religion, fashions, and even different coffee cups—when it comes right down to it, people are not so different from each other at all! Our shared humanity became increasingly evident to me on my journey. We are different, yet we are connected by a common thread of human-ness.
Inspired by my European adventure, here are 8 truths I discovered about what connects us as human beings and shows we are not so different from each other after all:
(1) People may look different, we may act different, think different, and show up in the world different from each other. No matter where we live and where we come from, when it comes right down to it each and every one of us wants respect.
This pic shows the ceremonial changing of the guard in Athens, Greece. The Evzones, as they are called, are a special unit of the Army who guard the Monument of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Parliament and Presidential Mansion. Today a respected symbol of bravery and courage for the Greek people, these young soldiers must stand perfectly still for 1 hour until it is time to switch with another guard—at which time, they must succinctly coordinate their kicks and steps.
(2) It’s usually better to listen more than talk. It’s amazing how much insight can be gained simply by listening.
(3) The less technology people have, the more “connected” they seem to be!
While the advances in technology have been undeniably helpful to our modern world, the value of authentic human interaction, of connection, of community, was repeatedly reinforced for me on this trip.
One day I was enjoying the sounds of a gregarious group of men and women as they congregated around a piazza fountain in a small Italian town. One person would leave, two more would arrive. And it was clear to me that being “linked in” or “liked” for these folks means laughing together, sharing stories, supporting each other, listening, and honouring their ritual of exchanging real dialogue with real people face to face. Wonderful! Meraviglioso! It served as a reminder to me how important it is to our quality of life and sense of well being to have that genuine human connection. In our hurried world, sometimes I feel the balance between connecting through technology and connection face to face can get way out of whack. Hey, on that note, message me if you want to meet up for coffee!
(4) Human beings have an absolutely incredible capacity to produce beauty.
Regardless of religious affiliation, I highly recommend a visit to Vatican City to see the stunning art treasures, incredible architecture, and pure beauty human beings can create.
This is a pic of Bernini’s baldacchino, a solid-bronze canopy over the main altar inside the famous masterpiece of Renaissance architecture, St. Peter’s Basilica. It was nothing short of breathtaking! The baldacchino is over 10 stories high (96 feet) but it appears small in comparison to the dome towering above it. The dome is more than 450 feet tall! And did you know that none of the”paintings” inside this incredible Basilica are actually paintings? From frescoes in the dome to the massive art hanging on the walls, every “painting” is in fact a mosaic made up of tiny pieces of glass that are painstakingly hand placed to create the artwork’s incredible detail. It’s amazing what humans can do!
(5) (Most) hand gestures are universal! If someone wants to tell another person “Hey pal, shove off!” they don’t need to speak the same verbal language. Hand gestures cross international borders and work very well–most of the time.
Nonverbal communication is fascinating! And so very effective!! While the North American culture might prefer the practice of curtly displaying a lone finger to nonverbally gesture their disdain toward another person, other European cultures opt for involving the entire arm in an animated upward thrust to punctuate their point. And here’s an interesting tidbit; did you know that in Athens, the way to truly insult someone is to extend an open hand with all five fingers spread apart (similar to a “halt!” gesture in North America)?
I saw one unfortunate tourist, innocently extend this “please stop”-like gesture to speeding drivers in an effort to slow the traffic so he could cross the street. He was unintentionally communicating to the recipients of his hand gesture that “you are an idiot, the worst driver ever!” Poor guy. The result was lots of honking, and I never did see the traffic slow for him to cross the street.
(6) Everything is better when touched with passion!
I have always been drawn to, almost mesmerized by, people with a passion for… well for anything really. It doesn’t matter whether it’s passion for collecting, serving, speaking, helping, crafting, producing, performing etc., when I have had the honour of experiencing the fruits of genuine passion I know I am experiencing something very special!
I had the pleasure of meeting so many passionate folk on my journey who took pride in their offerings; from the leather & tapestry artisan who carefully crafted my daughter’s one of-a-kind bag in Turkey, to the skilled shoe maker who sold us beautifully hand crafted sandals in Greece, to the lovingly created confetti candies, pasta, and gelato that we enjoyed at the little family run shops in Italy–passion (a love for, and joy in, what one is doing) is what elevated these experiences and made them truly special. I hope to always surround myself with passionate people~ what a rare gift they are.
(7) While conflicts around the world may look different, most conflict arises when we feel our needs (the stuff that is really important to us) are being obstructed, ignored, or threatened. In the human journey, whether it’s a need to earn a fair wage, a need to feed our family and keep them safe, or a need for justice, when a person’s needs are threatened in some way conflict is a likely passenger.