Cary T: Learn from others

I met Cary years ago, at a conference we attended while we were both still in college. We clicked instantly. I still remember showing him some impromptu dance moves in between sessions. Little did I know dance would go on to have such a major impact in his life. Cary tells us about what inspired him to learn Spanish and American Sign Language, the impact that travel has had on him, and the most important lesson he’s learned in life. Read on for the full story!

 

“My name is Cary. I’m from Little Rock, Arkansas; I live in Stamford, Connecticut; and I call Denver, Colorado home. I am an ambivert, logophile, dancer, learner, and teacher. I am most alive when learning something I didn’t know, followed closely by seeing someone’s face light up when they learn something of which they weren’t aware. I think of myself as dichotomous – I love spending time with people but need alone time to recharge; I love a mountaintop vista but thoroughly enjoy video games; and I love the vibe of a city like Denver but crave the serenity of a forest path or lake.

My strongest passion is Lindy Hop swing dancing! Lindy focuses more on momentum and partner connection than the other swing dances (which are all great). I’ve discovered no greater feeling in the world than that of a really good swing out. When you and your partner are anchoring each other just the right amount before your momentum collapses towards one another, the feeling of communication and teamwork is like nothing else. Swing dancing opens up whole new avenues of communication. You can tell a lot about someone’s personality by how they dance, and it’s almost impossible not to smile or laugh while dancing. Plus, learning how to toss someone in the air is pretty cool. (Big thanks to Lauren, who is responsible for getting me into swing dancing to begin with!)

Once when I was working at a frozen custard store in high school, a lady pulled up to the window. In response to my “Welcome to Shakey’s, how can I help you?” she pointed to her ear and handed me her order on a piece of paper. I realized she was deaf. I grew up around deaf people, and I picked up conversational ASL because of it. I signed her order back to her, and her face absolutely lit up. She started signing to me much more rapidly than I was able to track, and I apologized. We conversed for a solid ten minutes as her ice cream melted, but she didn’t seem to mind. I think she was just appreciative that someone who isn’t deaf took time to reach out of their comfort zone and communicate with her.

It was in that moment that I decided to study Deaf Education, and also one of the first times I considered studying Spanish.

I realized that there are so many people who are living in the United States who have a hard time communicating in English, and it can mean the world to someone when you even try to speak to them in a language with which they’re comfortable.

That story is a good reminder that every person has something to teach me, and that I have something to teach everyone. Because I spend so much of my time intentionally asking questions about things I don’t know, I can get arrogant about the things I do know. My favorite moments are the ones where I am taught something by someone I didn’t expect to learn from.

To add to that, I firmly believe that every person should live in another culture for at least a year, and every person should work either in retail or in a restaurant for at least six months. Far too often we act in ways that seem perfectly normal but have an adverse impact on others because we don’t know any better. Continually seeking to broaden our perspective to understand why people vastly different from us think the way they do is one of the best personal improvement methods.

We’re hard-wired to make snap judgments, which can be a beautiful thing because we don’t spend hours deciding what to have for lunch. But it gets us into trouble if we make those snap judgments of people.

That’s why I am intentional about seeking to understand why someone with whom I disagree thinks the way they do. More often than not, their perspective and experiences have lead them to a perfectly valid point of view. Very few people try to be irrational. We just can’t see all the facets of their reasoning.

The most important lesson I’ve learned is to assume nothing, and question everything. Each person has honed their perspective and values through the lens of their experiences. Those are uniquely theirs. No one could replicate their specific outlook on life. How many people on Earth do you think have had the same experiences as you? Even if there are a few who have had similar ones, their values are probably vastly different than yours. If that’s true, then doesn’t it make sense that what they see as important or how they act could also be vastly different?

But does that make what they think any less valid? 99% of people come by their opinions through valid means. They’re not crazy. They just think differently. The next time you encounter someone whose point of view doesn’t make sense to you, I urge you to try to understand why they think the way they do. Try to see their perspective.”

 

Jeanine B: The ordinary important

I first met Jeanine as a fellow expat living in South Korea. Over the years, I’ve watched her kids grow up, and enjoyed the fellowship of her and her family on 3 separate continents. Jeanine tells us of her inter-cultural and multi-ethnic life, the lessons her children have taught her, and her faith that’s sustained her through it all. Read on for her full story!

 

While I am Minnesota born and raised, my first name is actually French. Additionally, my maiden name is Norwegian, but my married last name is from Middle Eastern culture despite the fact that I am married to a Peruvian whose first name is of Italian origin.

Yes, our names Are quite strange, but they match an international lifestyle that we have had ever since we were married.

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Ntiusha Chumanya: Keeping the dream when reality hits

This month’s story of significance comes from Ntiusha (pronounced in-tee-yu-sha) Chumanya, a high-schooler in Zambia, Africa. He tells us about his love of drawing, his parents, life lessons, and how he altered his course to find a new path to his dreams. Read on for his full story!

 

My name is Ntiusha Chumanya, and I live in Zambia, Africa.

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Mei: Give back

I had heard about Mei long before I had the pleasure of meeting her. A co-worker of my husband, he had already told me many stories about her zeal for adventure and passion for travel before we ever clapped eyes on each other. Now that we have officially met, Mei has certainly lived up to all of the stories my husband told me. I love following her travels – it seems that every time she posts something online she’s in a different country!

Here is Mei’s story:

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Heidi F: Choose joy

I have known Heidi all my life. Or rather, I suppose it would be more accurate to say that Heidi has known me all my life.

When I was born Heidi’s parents and my parents were already close friends. Her mom taught the Sunday school lessons for the kids in our church tirelessly – week after week, year after year. I remember her set of flannel characters that she used to visually illustrate stories from the Bible. When I turned 13, Heidi’s dad wrote me a sweet little poem as a gift to commemorate the occasion. I still have it, almost 15 years later.

Heidi was several years my senior, so we never really ran in the same circles, but I remember thinking many times as a child that Heidi was one of the “cool” grown-ups. She had a winning smile, warm personality, and seemed to always be doing interesting things. I adored Heidi.

Then life happened, as it always does, and our families grew apart. My folks moved out of town, and then Heidi moved even farther away. We still kept up with each other through Facebook, friends, and occasionally old church reunions. I enjoyed hearing from a distance about the changes in Heidi’s life – moving to Colorado, joining and then leaving YWAM, getting married, etc. I realized, however, that I didn’t really know her story. To truly know someone’s joys and struggles, you have to been a bit closer to them than their Facebook feed.

That’s why I was so delighted when Heidi submitted her story to Stories of Significance. To hear such vulnerability from someone I admired so greatly…well, it only serves to deepen my admiration for her even further.

Here is Heidi’s story:

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Evelyn and Gilles: Create your opportunities

This month’s Story of Significance comes from a lovely older French couple who stayed with us for about a week. We enjoyed many wonderful hours of laughter and conversation with them as they shared their wisdom and observations on almost everything under the sun. Read on to hear more.

My first impression of Evelyn and Gilles was that they had many strong opinions.

In our very first conversation with them, Evelyn was constantly saying that things were “real problems.”  Taxes in France, crime rates in the United States, health care systems, terrorism, obesity rates…all of these things were, in Evelyn’s opinion, “a real problem.”

My second impression of them, following quickly on the heels of the first, is that this was a wonderful, open, and incredibly fun-loving couple.

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Amber Jones: Follow your fears

A few months ago, Amber Jones reached out to me via email. She had read my story from a blogger that we both follow, and was inspired enough to send me an email letting me know. (Which I loved, by the way! I’m always up for meeting new readers. Hint hint, wink wink ;])

After corresponding back and forth a few times, I asked her if she would like to be featured on my new monthly series, Stories of Significance. She enthusiastically agreed, and I’m so glad she did!

Amber’s story is a wonderful start to this series. Refreshingly honest and relatable, she shared some real nuggets of wisdom that she’s learned over the years. My favorite lessons are: 1) follow your fears, 2) you can achieve what seems impossible, and 3) sometimes the best things in life are the ones we didn’t even think we wanted. Enjoy!

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