If I have learned anything so far on this trip to China, it is that humans are more alike than different regardless of nationality. Sure, externals can be radically different. I don’t look like any native Chinese I’ve seen. Still, there are so many experiences that are the same across cultures that it is a terrible shame to misrepresent whole groups of people with broad generalizations to serve our purposes.
When meeting poor, rural Chinese Christians over the past week, we may have only understood basic phrases when talking without an interpreter, but simple human kindness, respect, love, courtesy and giving were experienced and felt the same regardless of language. Tears of joy are real in any language. Laughter and smiles need no translation. Common bonds of faith supersede differences of history, culture, personal experience or governmental influence.
Watching teenagers in China behave like teenagers in America reinforces the centrality of human nature in our development – for good and for bad. Seeing how parents treat their children shows love in the same way I feel toward my sons. Observing couples relating to each other and old people carrying on as they see fit and shows the same compassion and work ethic I see in many back home.
I am not defined by what my government does. I am impacted by it, but not defined by it. Nor do I lose my own personality because of anything my government does. So let’s give the average citizen of other countries the same we demand for ourselves – individual respect as a human being.
That isn’t to say we treat governments with naivete. That would be foolish. But it would be more foolish for me to travel to a rural Chinese area, meet with Christian believers, and assume that they are untrustworthy or puppets of the government just because they live in this country. I’m sure there are many officials who should not be trusted and propaganda to be dismissed as false.
Last time I checked, though, our own government in the U.S. does a pretty good job at dishing out its own propaganda. Remember to focus first on people.
Leap year lesson #112 is We are more alike than different.