Since our return home from Saudi Arabia, (A place I once feared and had zero desire to move to.) I have been facilitating a series of workshops for students – sharing what day-to-day life was like while emphasizing critical life, leadership and people skills that they will need throughout their lives.
In each workshop students are given a visual of a natural process that will happen the rest of their lives – as they decide if they have the courage to leave their comfort zones or the grit to survive when life hands them circumstances they can’t control.
Some of the questions I’ve been asked about Saudi are worth sharing:
What was the best part?
- Living in an International Compound: Sharing life, friendship, and food with people from more than 50 nations and learning from them.
- Riding motorcycle with men and women from all over the world and getting to experience parts of Saudi that many expats don’t get to enjoy. (Yes – My motorcycle jacket had ½ of an abaya attached to it and could be rolled up when I was on the bike and rolled down when I was off the bike. Allowing me to be respectful and safe while enjoying time on the bike with my husband.)
- Vacationing in 11 countries besides Saudi and Bahrain in the 4 years we were there.
What was the hardest thing for you?
On November 15th, twenty-eight women from a variety of races, nations and religions gathered together for a Conversation Safari. The plan was to dive into divisive current events and the fears that drive our emotions, our behaviors and our results.
Our topic had been planned for months based on several private conversations:
- I’d had with a Muslim neighbor
- And several different conversations I’d had with ladies that will always have a better tan than I do
In each of those private conversations we shared fears, we felt each other’s pain, and considered new perspectives.
(The date of our event had been chosen because of some scheduling conflicts, not because of a master strategy. But when November 9th rolled around and the election results from the U.S. hit the airwaves – fear in across the world and in the expat sandbox grew. Our topic could not have been more perfectly timed.)
- One of the women I had met with during the summer shared what was happening at the University that her son attends in the U.S.
- Other neighbors were posting deep concern for their safety in the world
- While other friends in the U.S. were sharing deep concerns about racism and bigotry
As the news about Orlando, and yet another hate crime swirls around us….
What are you seeing? What are you hearing? What are you pondering? What are you praying for?
Typically after events like this I invest major amounts of energy reading the news and contemplating the opinions and the blame game that follows.
Have you got a list of values that you hold so dearly, that they actually define who you are?
And I used to really struggle with those that didn’t share those values.
As a child, I would passionately argue my convictions and not listen to those that did not share my opinions. (Because they were simply wrong!)
As a young professional, I thought it was horribly rude for people to roll their eyes in disagreement – but the shaking of my head as others spoke – screamed how wrong they were. (And how unwilling I was to listen.)
Hi! My name is Chery, and I am a recovering opinionista! (…Emphasis on recovering.) Somewhere along the way, I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror, and I didn’t like what I saw.
So I began to listen more and talk less. (Not because I didn’t have opinions, but because I didn’t know how to share them and really listen.)
Along the way I heard personal stories from people who had opposing views about some of the values that I hold most dear. And I began to really consider what it was like to walk in their shoes and even wonder if I’d experienced what they had, if I would hold those same views.
In most cases, my convictions did not change, but my understanding, compassion and creativity increased:
I grew up in a little town in North Dakota, where we had four very distinct seasons. My favorite as a child was summer – because I absolutely love being in the water!
It was refreshing, peaceful, freeing, great exercise and fun!
Unless we were camping by the lake… We would pedal our bicycles to the pool multiple times every single day. In the morning for an hour of lessons, then for three hours of open swimming in the afternoon and occasionally in the evening for another two – three hours of playing in the water!
If gills or a mermaid tail had been an option I would have them!
A few years ago I met a young woman that loved being in the water even more than I do. As a child she was on swim teams and lived in the pool. But at a very young age she was diagnosed with a disease that has impacted her body a lot like ALS.