To this day, I can’t fathom spending $4 on a cup of coffee — the roadside cup is great, as long as it’s light and sweet enough. Kyle, on the other hand, will buy a $20 pack of roasted beans from his favorite shop in LA, that he’ll fly back to New York and grind it by hand every morning and brew in his Aeropress. It’s a sacred, 10-minute process. I love him for this little ritual and respect him so thoroughly for the effort he puts in. Who am I to judge what makes him happy?
At a pitstop in a river town in Vietnam, women dressed in draping white gowns come out with fish, fried whole and presented on a stick, standing upright in a platter. They’ve adorned the dish with purple orchids and folded our napkins in ridiculous shapes, because that’s what they assume we Westerners are used to, and perhaps, expect. Not all of the people I’m joined by recoil in disgust at the dish, but too many of them do. Some make nasty comments about finding something else to eat, or about wasting their money on this trip. The fish is delicious. Maybe I’m the only one used to it, with monthly family banquets with pale eyes from a halibut or snapper staring back at me. I love the looks I share with my grandparents while they slurp from the head, giggling like children! Anyway, who am I to judge what makes them happy?
It’s terrible to think that two people in love, who are made for each other, can spend their entire lives learning, and re-learning, how to live together, let alone being happy. But it’s true. We’re all different and ever-changing, and that’s a beautiful thing. The wrong choice is to be sure and unwavering. The wrong choice is to find others who are exactly like you, so you’ll never be challenged. So you’ll never have to defend yourself. So you’ll never have to question your values and beliefs.
Let others have their world — witness it, respect it. You may find something you want for your own life, like in my case, the Vietnamese women’s patience for foreigners. If there’s nothing for you there, just let them enjoy it!
Well … we know this doesn’t always work. There is right and wrong. We can’t sit idly by a white supremacist or climate change denier. The answer is simple — invite as many of them into your life as possible and talk to them. Understand their position, why they believe what they do, where their facts are coming from. At best, you’ll find yourself knowing the issue even better, and you’ll have changed someone’s mind — it’s more likely than you’d think. At worst, you’ll have learned something and you’ll be better prepared for your next attempt at making our world a little safer, or more honest or open.