What is something that scares you when it comes to interacting with other people? For me, I can get up in front of hundreds of people with a prepared speech and be nervous, but not feel like I’m going to die. Put me with a small group of even just four people that I don’t know to simply chat about life, and I feel like my heart is going to stop.
This may sound a little dramatic, but I’m only exaggerating a little bit. Sunday evening, our church provided space for a group for international students at IU to host their welcome banquet. A good friend of ours was in charge of planning the event. He invited us to be table hosts for the evening. My husband was game, but me…not so much.
I very reluctantly chose to join him. My heart was thumping out of my chest. “What am I going to say to these people? What if they can’t speak English very well? I don’t even know how to talk to Americans.” All of these were thoughts going through my head. My husband politely kept encouraging me to get a grip. He knew I was ready to jump out of my own skin.
We ended up with two masters students from India who spoke English fluently and a Chinese woman with her daughter who knew a little of the language. We had our boys join us at the table to make the little girl feel more comfortable. The evening consisted of food, door prizes for the student, a dance by some doctoral students from India and an instrumental performance/calligraphy demonstration by students from China.
Here were some of my observations:
1) Sometimes what we build up in our heads to be terrible isn’t that bad in reality.
2) Gathering people from multiple countries is a beautiful thing. Diversity should intrigue us, not frighten us.
3) Culture truly is fascinating in how what can be acceptable in once place can be totally unacceptable in another. I love how dance is such a huge part of India’s culture. It makes me sad that growing up with a conservative Christian background that I got the impression dancing was something to be looked down on.
4) Exposing our kids to people of different cultures is so important! We need to teach them to embrace the beauty of differences. My boys thoroughly enjoyed the evening.
5) Our international guests attending IU are brave! I can’t imagine going to another country to live knowing very little about their culture or language. I’m so glad our church is willing to provide a place to reach out to these individuals and show them that at least some of us in this country are eager to welcome them and help them adjust.
In the span of two hours, we learned so much! I rarely regret pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. My guess is, you wouldn’t either. Take a chance and put yourself in a position to get to know someone different from yourself.
Oh, and that awesome banner in the picture? My husband designed it. #proudwife
What is something you have done for others that you did reluctantly, but were glad you did it later?