In my work as an educational consultant, I flew to Ohio a few weeks ago to facilitate a workshop. Warmly welcomed by a group of school administrators, I sat to eat breakfast with them and asked about their school districts. One man commented that in his district they have a local holiday for the opening of hunting season. Another mentioned that in his area it’s common to have students out of school to sell their animals at the local fair. I added that San Francisco Unified School District takes a local holiday to observe the Lunar New Year.
It was a quiet moment. I don’t know if they didn’t know what the Lunar New Year was, or if it was just the polite silence that happens when strangers eat together, but it was quiet.
I wasn’t trying to be provocative, but I was trying to bring my regional perspective to the conversation. Later that afternoon I shared with a colleague that I might’ve also mentioned that a nearby school district with a substantial Jewish population takes the day of Yom Kippur off. She said that comment might have been a bit much. Ouch.
I love working in other parts of the country. I see it as a gift.
Without a genuine interest in understanding how others see the world, I don’t see how I can move toward living within a much larger global context.
I also know traveling to other parts of our country, and our state for that matter, challenge me, frustrate me and in this political climate, scare me.
I am determined to find ways to ‘hold center’ in the midst of what is going on now in our country. And, in our election season, I am getting very clear how critically important it is to keep myself open and respectful during conversations with others.
Now, there’s a video a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game. And in it, anxiety builds as the mic cuts out during the singing of our National Anthem. In this ‘feel good’ moment of USA-Canada relations, I was touched. Not hearing the soloist’s voice, the Canadian fans, unprompted, sung to the end of our national anthem.
I was moved at the respect the fans had for their American ‘rivals’. And it reminded me I need to keep getting out of my region to learn from others.
I am off to learn all of “O, Canada.”
With a Perspective, this is Jennifer Abrams.
Jennifer Abrams is an educational and communications consultant based in Palo Alto.