Welcome to our all-new series called Friday Chewable: Food for Thought. Once per month we will post a new topic to open your mind, challenge your ideas or just give you something to think about over the weekend.
This second installment of Food for Thought, written by Mike, deals with kindness and humanity.
I like to think I’m a nice person. I try to be friendly and understanding, even during trying times. Over the course of our 14 months traveling, I realized there is a vast ocean of difference between being nice and the genuine kindness that we experienced from others.
Early in our trip we were fortunate enough to Couchsurf with an awesome couple, Clelia and Ruslan, at their home in Trieste, Italy. We stayed with them for two nights, and over the course of many conversations, we tried to reconcile how most Americans’ attitude of friendliness is based on a superficial model. It is common in America to say, “Hello” and “How are you?” to strangers without any real concern for the answer. The outside perception is that all Americans are nice, but if no one cares about the answer, the question loses all meaning. It was an interesting idea and one that I had never thought of. Here we were staying with a pair of strangers who had responded to a virtual request to stay with them (sent through a website), and they had taken us in and treated us like close friends or family. There was nothing superficial about it.
Traveling has opened our eyes to how generous people can be to complete strangers beyond the superficial interactions we had become accustomed to. We have experienced deep and meaningful sacrifices in the name of kindness. Clelia and Ruslan had no ulterior motive. They were being hospitable because they wanted to connect with other people. It certainly takes a certain type of person to do what they did for us, but I wonder why they were able to break away from the fears that some people feel towards strangers. I think fear leads to distrust and ultimately an inability and a lack of desire to connect with others. What has your experience been like? Do you find interactions with strangers and even acquaintances to be genuine or more superficial? Feel free to keep the discussion going by commenting below.