How do you get along with those who think and act differently from you?
Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days at our lake house in Columbus, Ohio. The weather was beautiful, and I was so excited when I saw not only the usual geese and deer, but also the arrival of seagulls. I had not seen seagulls in Columbus before, and I thought this was incredible.
Little did I know, until I witnessed, that the seagulls were robbing the nests and eating the eggs of the geese. I watched as the gulls carried the eggs to the edge of the water, proceeded to drop the eggs on the ground numerous times, learned to drop the eggs on the concrete sidewalk instead, and then eat the contents. I was amazed at my own ignorance of why the gulls were gathered. I was also baffled by the response of the geese.
As I felt sad for the goose who had been sitting on her nest on the little island, I was aware that the geese were not screaming at the gulls. Or maybe I had missed seeing that part of the story. Rather, the geese proceeded to keep eating and keep swimming. I knew in my heart I could never have taken such aggression in stride.
But the whole scenario reminded me of some of the costs of living in a multicultural society. We can often, intentionally or unintentionally, step on the people around us who are different from ourselves. We can make statements which demonstrate our own internal and social biases. These biases are often not even known to ourselves, and are only uncovered and discovered when someone from a different culture or experience has the courage to tell us what we said or did that hurt them.
Learning to live interculturally, where each person and each group of persons are honored and respected for who they are, is not easy, but it is our Gospel mandate. Developing cross-cultural living skills is a lifelong process of conversion which requires faith, skills, practice, curiosity, and good will. As Dominican Sisters of Peace, we have embraced this call and challenge in our Chapter Commitments, especially our commitment to ongoing conversion into the peace of Christ, to promoting justice through solidarity with those who are marginalized, and to creating environments of peace by promoting unity in diversity and reconciliation wherever we are.
Next time you get stepped on by an intentional or unintentional comment or action, consider inviting the person to look at the behavior through your lens. You may provide a perspective that will help them to grow. Together we can help each other learn the skills to truly live in peace.
8 responses to “Seagulls, Geese and the Hazards of Multicultural Living”
Kathy, Yesterday the Free Press, Detroit carried an article about the Native-American reaction to President Jackson being removed from the $20 bill. It so tied in with your reflection on geese and seagulls. . . to keep in mind that my little world of experience is just that, LITTLE! Thank you.
Thanks, Cathy, for your powerful reflection.
Love your openness to learn and your wisdom, Cathy! You are so right that intercultural peace is a lifetime struggle!
So many lessons for us in the natural world…no wonder Jesus used it so often in parables. God is always speaking….
YES! Your symbolism is right on target. And so is your recommendation:
“Next time you get stepped on by an intentional or unintentional comment or action, consider inviting the person to look at the behavior through your lens. You may provide a perspective that will help them to grow. Together we can help each other learn the skills to truly live in peace.” You might look at your response through their lens, too.
Thank you. I don’t think I’ll look at geese or sea gulls the same after reading your reflection.
I’m reading several books that relate closely to what you’re sharing. The reality of our life is that we do and will live and work with people of a wide variety of cultures and ethnic groups. I am glad that we’re beginning to study, dialogue, and be intentional about living interculturally. Blessings ~
Thanks, Cathy, for sharing this new perspective! Certainly something deserving my attention.
Thank you for your message. It was truly profound. You have given us plenty to reflect on in the days ahead.