There are a lot of us in this world – around 7.5 billion to be a little more exact. It’s hard to wrap our heads around a number like that. In trying to, you might relate it to how many people you know, and multiply that up and try to conceptualize how many people that really is. Furthermore, you begin to wonder how different all 7.5 billion of us are. We live in different places, eat different foods, speak different languages… and that’s only the beginning. I’d like to try to contextualize that number not by talking in terms of statistics but rather in terms of something a little bit easier for us to relate to.
Imagine for a moment the story of your life thus far. How your family came to be, where their ancestors came from, the house (or houses) you lived in growing up, the first language you learned, the first nightmare you had, your first day of school, your first job, the friends you made along the way, the outfits you wore, the pictures you took, the heartbreak and suffering you persevered through or are still growing through, and the experiences you gained throughout that entire journey. It’s a lot … and not only is it a lot to remember, but there are countless things that we can’t even remember – things that don’t come to mind whatsoever. My point is that every experience of the journey of your life has sculpted the person you are today. Every struggle every triumph, every tear every laugh has become a part of your history and ultimately your story.
Now imagine that there are 7.5 billion versions of that story…
Let that sink in for a moment. 7.5 billion versions of every experience that has shaped you. It seems an astronomical concept to internalize. The reason I’ve tried to frame this idea the way I have is that I’ve learned that in our lives we come in contact with people, or find ourselves in situations where our stories begin to interact. Some run parallel while others could not be more different. Some inform the knowledge we’ve already attained while others will seek to crush the beliefs that we have. It becomes very easy to get lost in all these singularities. It becomes easy to isolate oneself within the context of their own story – to focus solely on writing our own book without lending a sentence to someone else’s paragraph.
What we will find, however, is that through sharing and in taking interest in knowing about who we are, and what experiences have shaped us, we become not only more knowledgeable about those around us, but we learn immediately how we can become active characters in each other’s lives. We begin to realize we are not going through our struggles alone. We begin to realize that the joy we feel at certain moments can be congruent to the joys of others’. Through telling our stories and hearing those of others we build lasting relations within our communities. We strengthen the bond between us as individuals, in a world that so often tries to separate us. When we open up about who we are and allow others to open up about who they are, we become global citizens. Citizens of a world where connections can be made on the basis of being human; each of us having our own characteristics that make us unique.
Mitesh Dixit, a professor of mine, once said, “When you meet people you lose your prejudice.” This quote struck me quite deeply as I realized how many of us are too quick to assume things about people whose stories we don’t know. Too often we make generalizations based on arbitrary facts – facts that are told through the lens of somebody else’s story. Sometimes the only thing needed is for people to share their experiences. When we allow ourselves that level of openness and vulnerability, we create an environment where our stories can begin to inform one another. We can begin to answer our own questions about why people think the way they do. When we hear other people’s stories we begin to allow our understanding of our context to become richer. Knowing what kinds of people surround us, allows us to be more relevant in their lives, and sensitive to the things that they are passing through. Our compassion starts to take over as opposed to our desire to build walls.
Sharing our stories helps us navigate through life with a greater sense of safety. When you open up about your struggles and how you overcame them, you help others over come their own. When you explain the story of how you learned about a new culture by visiting it, you help educate people who have not had that opportunity. By sharing your story of life you inspire people, younger and older, to look forward to their adventures and to live to their fullest. It builds a desire to write a story worth telling – and that’s something we all have the potential to do.
Take time to share your story – and take time to hear one too. Allow our 7.5 billion stories to unify us through understanding and a desire to hear one another; allowing us to grow together, as humanity.
Please share this article with somebody whose story you want to hear… but don’t forget to tell them yours too! Comments welcome as always.