I had a chance two years ago to see Author Nabeel Qureshi speak about cultural expectations. He shared a very poignant example about how a foreign exchange student came from Saudi Arabia with two suitcases full of gifts. When his roommate asked him if he had family or friends here, he replied that he didn’t know anyone in the United States, but when he was invited to their home, he would be sure to bring a gift as is customary. The worst part of Nabeel’s story is that the student returned home to Saudi Arabia with two suitcases still packed full.
Last week, I wrote about the need for Hospitality in a world full of isolated people who were focused on their technology and relied on iPhones for communication. An article on Bloomberg Business by Bruce Weinstein even coined a term way back in 2007 called “iPhone iSolation.” I think that the author was way ahead of the game. There is something still said for conversation face-to-face. Even our kids are plugged in at the restaurant, in the car, or at home. Still, the draw of personal contact, communication is present. I was at the car dealership last month to get the oil changed. A lady next to me was actually reading a book, while I crocheted. It was not a normal situation – usually in waiting rooms, everyone seems to be staring down at the glowing screen in their hand. We struck up a conversation about her book and ended up sharing phone numbers and e-mail. I love getting to know people. It’s a joy. One on one communication is falling by the wayside, but the satisfaction of getting to find out more about another person and to make a connection is wonderful. One only has to go and see that more work-related decisions are made over a round of golf or a glass of wine than in the office. There is a sense of ease, a familiarity that allows us to get out of a formal setting and into someone’s personal life.
Now, before you shake your head at me and say something like “Not everyone likes to be everyone’s friend, Mona” or like someone I know says to me in good humor “I have all the friends I need right now. If I meet someone else, I will have to bump someone out on my list of existing friends!” I understand that not everyone likes to strike up random conversations. HOWEVER, most of you reading this article do have a circle of intimate friends and then others in the periphery. What I am asking for is to reach out those in the periphery – get to know them more than just in passing at the water cooler at work, at the kids’ school or soccer game, or even at church.
Human Beings were created to be social. In fact, in the book of Genesis, it states “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him'” Genesis 2:18 I do think this is one of the reasons so many men become more isolated than women. Women have a natural tendency to be a “helper” to one another. Men do this also, but not as much as us women. We like to socialize, to share stories and to work with one another.
I taught at the State of Oklahoma about Cultural Diversity in November 2015. The class was very diverse in make-up and we had several individuals who had either visited foreign countries or were immigrants. I posed a few questions to the immigrants:
- When was the last time your colleague asked you about your family or children?
- When was the last time you received an invitation to share a cup of coffee or tea with someone American?
- When was the last time you received an invitation to their home?
A man from China raised his hand and his answer made me so very sad. He said that this training was the first time that anyone had asked about his home or family. He had NO invitations to have a cup of tea or coffee – not even at Starbucks or a coffee shop. He has lived here for 8 years and has had NO invitations to come to someone’s home – not even an invitation from his neighbor.
I then asked if he has extended the invitation to others. He smiled and said yes. He said it was a part of his culture to do so but no one has the time to visit him. He stayed after the class and we chatted for a bit (yes, of course I invited him to come and meet my family!). It was one of those things that stays with you. There is a sadness in the world that is caused by us living in bubbles. We drive in our little bubble and wave quickly to neighbors. We come into the office and sit in our little bubble of a desk. We stay in that bubble at lunch with our phones. We then drive back home in the bubble and quickly close the garage door in case a neighbor wants to talk or worse, complain. Why don’t we pop that isolation bubble and go make a new friend or go deeper in a relationship with someone you might be thinking of right now?I think you might be surprised at the blessings you will receive! If you reach out and extend that Invitation to join you in conversation, a cup of coffee or even dinner, let me know how it turns out for you. I think we truly can change our culture one Invite at a time.