good life by susan allen
Part of cultivating a good life is taking the time to get to know other people who might seem different than you.
I started to appreciate this lesson 21 years ago when I was 19. I had the opportunity to move to Japan for six months where I would be working as a dancer/entertainer at a brand new amusement park. The opportunity was scary to me at first, knowing I would be moving to a foreign country with 20 other dancers (boys and girls) whom I had never met. I clearly remember the day I met the other 20 dancers. It was soon apparent that we all came from very different backgrounds and from many different places in the United States. Other than dance, we did not have a lot in common that I could see. We came from different religions, ethnic backgrounds, and cultures. I immediately had my preconceived biases and ideas on who I would become friends with. I found myself, at first, only getting to know the girl who was most like me.
Within just a few days of working together in Japan, culture shock had set in, not just because I was living in a new and strange country, but also because I was interacting with my fellow dancers who seemed quite different from me. During those early times, we began to get to know each other better and opened up with each other. We had discussions on politics, race, religion, and sexual orientation. I remember at times having the thought “I’m definitely not in Kansas anymore.” My young naïve self knew I wanted to be nice to these people and get along with them, but I was sure that we were too different to become the best of friends.
As the days turned into weeks, we all spent a lot of time with each other socially outside of work and getting to know Japan. I found myself starting to really get to know these new friends of mine. I learned about their families, their friends, their cultures, their religions, their life experiences, their dreams, and their fears. The more I came to know and understand them, the more I came to care for them as unique and precious people who were important to me. My love for them grew and I soon realized they were not only my friends but my family away from home. I also realized how much we did have in common. We loved to cook new foods, explore Japan, laugh, dance, play Monopoly late into the night, and worship each in our own way.
By the end of the six months, I realized that my life was richer because of my opportunity to know my new friends. I realized that the diversity in our backgrounds and lifestyles made us unique not just different. As unique individuals, we are precious to God and he loves each of us individually. Ultimately, the love and admiration we all had for each other was stronger than our differences. I’m so grateful for this experience and how it has helped me view others over the past 21 years. That is why I feel that part of cultivating a good life is taking the time to get to know people who are different than you.
Note from Becky
Susan is a personal friend of mine for about 15 years now. And man, does this world need her message. I have had some of the most joyful memories with those who walk a different path, tell a different story, hum a different tune. But having Susan share this today reminds me all over again what a blessing it is to associate with, learn from, connect with those who can add flavor to our world. Thank you, Susan!