“God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness…” Genesis 1:26
When I was a little girl my grandmother traveled around the world on a “tramp steamer.” This relatively inexpensive ship allowed her to spend months crisscrossing the globe while our family enjoyed her travels vicariously. We had a world map mounted on a hallway wall which helped us monitor her movements. Every time a postcard arrived, we would read it eagerly, marveling at the sights and sounds she was experiencing. Then we would carefully and somewhat ceremoniously place a pin in her current location. Soon colorful dots marked her journey from one hemisphere to another.
Every once in a while a package would arrive with a doll or other interesting artifact from her adventures. This was the beginning of my doll collection; I still treasure the brightly colored costumes that represent the variety of cultures she experienced.
As a child, my goal in life was to be able to add to that collection myself. I looked forward to the day when I would be able to travel and discover new customs, foods, and cultures on my own. My first overseas trip was as a high school summer exchange student to Germany. That was enough to encourage me to travel whenever and wherever I could. My college junior year abroad (in Germany, again) led to two additional years of living and working in Europe. When I went to seminary, international travel was encouraged so that we could broaden our horizons and our understanding of religions and cultures other than our own. That led to study trips to Costa Rica and Israel.
My dream was to pass my curiosity and love of learning on to my children. We traveled as a family to Bolivia to participate in home-building and education support. My children have since ventured to places I have not (yet) experienced including Senegal, Japan, Wales, and Spain. I believe it has been a vital part of their education, giving them a broader perspective on the world and on themselves.
The only way to learn about one another – whether across the globe or in our own town – is to experience each other’s world. We need to talk with – and listen to – each other. We live in a nation divided by politics and opinions. It is imperative that we wonder about each other, ask questions of one another, and carefully consider what the other person is saying.
One way to approach each other is with a holy curiosity. We can ponder – what is it like to be that person? What has been their life experience? What has formed and shaped them? What do they believe and why? What can I learn from them?
We will not agree with – or even like – everyone we meet. But if we approach people with the understanding that every one of us is created in the image of God, that might be a place to begin.