A woman recently told me “I see all those people, but I just don’t know what to say, so I don’t talk to them.” She was talking about internationals, or the populations the Census Bureau calls the “Foreign Born.” How easy it is to walk by, to pay the checkout person with the heavy accent, to avoid the student with the dark skin and the head covering, to stay in our enclave of those who are like us.
It takes a bit of effort, a willingness to make mistakes, and even to be put in an uncomfortable position to reach out. Pablo Picasso famously said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” In relational terms, isn’t this true, as well? When we were children, most of us longed to connect with others, to belong well to a community. And in time, we may have even worked to bring others in so that they could find their right place. But even the most sensitive soul learns to tune others out over time. The artist in us longs to create connections, but the busy pragmatist learns to take the shortcuts that make sense, to save time and emotional energy, and risk.
In my metro area (Dallas/Fort Worth), over 17% of us were born in another place. Yet so few cross the lines of culture to relate and to learn. How much have we lost in the interim? And how do we regain the soul of the artist-child?