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Opening Our Hearts to Difference

Working_Together_Teamwork_Puzzle_ConceptI noticed something about myself a few weeks ago. I noticed that when I come across people from other cultures I am more likely to interact with them in a pleasant and warm way than I am with those who look like me. I realised that this is because I feel so bad about the way that this country treats migrants / refugees / people who are different in any way culturally, that I want to try to restore some sense that ‘we are not all like that’ even though it may not seem that way. I dont really mind if these people are permanent residents here, first second or third generation. If they look different to the anglo norm, then I will work hard to make sure that they receive nothing but warmth and friendliness from me. 

I have to say that I am generally a friendly person anyway. I enjoy having a chat with people I pass as I walk my dogs and when I buy my groceries. However, this is different. I am looking into their eyes and hoping that my communciation with them, albeit brief and usually just entailing a ‘hello’ or a ‘lovely evening isn’t it’ or ‘you’re little girl is beautiful’ etc. conveys something much, much more to them. 

I hope it conveys this to them:
I am interested in you and your family. I care that you and others who have a different cultural background are so often targetted as the recipients of racist attitudes and behaviours both by individuals and the governments of this country. I am pleased that you are here, in whatever capacity – as a tourist, as a resident, as a refugee seeking asylum here, as a student studying here. In whatever way you have come here, I am pleased that you are here and I can welcome you and hopefully get to know you and we can learn many things from each other. 

I too am not from here. In fact pretty much all of the people who tell you to go home or back from where you came, come from somewhere else. It is an irony that I’m sure is not lost on you. I’m equally sure that it is not lost on the Indigenous people of this land who are the only people who have come from here. As you probably know, we have done a shocking job of dealing with the many abuses that were inflicted on Indigenous people by our ancestors and more recently by our fellow citizens. There is very little to be proud of in this respect in this country. In fact, I am deeply ashamed of our history and inability now to act in a respectful and responsible way to allow us all to move on with peace in our hearts and a generosity of spirit to each other. 

So, with the greatest of respect for you and your culture, I would like you to know that not every person in Australia agrees that you should go back to where you came from; not every person in Australia is fearful of your difference; not every person in Australia is so stupid as to think that we can treat other human beings in such a disgusting way and still sleep well at night; not every person in Australia thinks that what is currently happening in this country is ok, that we can discard the sanctity of our collective human rights and responsibilities to care for ourselves and each other in order to preserve our materalistic standard of living and therefore keep our eyes closed to the issues and needs of the rest of the world. 

As fellow human beings our paths have just crossed and we have seen each other. I wish you peace and happiness as you continue your journey, wherever it may take you. 

In the remote chance that I have managed to convey all of that in my brief 5 second interaction, let this encourage us all to open our hearts to each other. I doubt it will do any harm.

Jenny