Let's Take a Trip!
Let's Take a Trip
By George Belsky, Jr.
I heard this quote from Mark Twain for the first time the other day: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” As I thought about it, I realized how true this statement is, at least for me. I grew up in central New Jersey, and as a kid in a blue-collar family in the ‘70s we didn’t travel much. My world consisted of my family, neighborhood, friends, and neighbors that all looked, worshipped, thought, and acted in pretty much the same ways. This is not to say my small slice of the world was racially or ethnically homogeneous. It wasn’t, but the people and the places formed and cemented my attitudes, values, ethics, morals, and virtues. By the time I left home for college at 17 years old (with all the arrogance of youth) I thought I had a pretty good grasp of things.
Traveling to college meant going to a new place, meeting a lot of knew people from a lot of different places with a lot of different ideas and thoughts of their own. Traveling for work (the Army) after college brought me out into the bigger world, farther from home and college where I discovered still more different ideas, thoughts, values, and cultures than the ones I grew up with and became exposed to in college. Still more travel, not just geographically but also by changing career paths (from the military into law enforcement), grew my exposure to people and places and ideas I never knew existed. I would like to think (as Mark Twain implied) that my “travel” - for school, the military, in law enforcement (local and federal), for business or for pleasure - consisted not only of geographic travel but the travel of the mind and of experience to make me less prejudiced, bigoted, and narrow-minded.
Let’s take a closer look at travel for just a minute though. If we agree with Mr. Twain and acknowledge that our personal, mental, emotional, spiritual, and experiential development would benefit from travel we should make that a priority. However, not very many of us can just put our lives on hold and go on a sabbatical. We have familial, financial, employment, and/or other obligations and scheduling challenges that don’t allow us to just take off, wander Europe or hike the Appalachian Trail top to bottom, or travel around the country living out of our van or pick-up. What we can do if can’t physically travel is travel in our minds. Read books, articles, blogs, etc. on a number of subjects: geography, culture, history, biography, science, poetry, fantasy, science-fiction, etc. By developing a solid reading practice we can expand not just what we know but also why and how we think. Immersing ourselves in other places, times, and stories we learn more about others and ourselves. This can be especially true if you read things outside of your comfort zone, pushing your own envelope. I admit that nothing really is a perfect substitute for being there, but with an open mind and open heart, we can get pretty close. In the same way, watching movies - even YouTube videos - can help us travel and explore new ideas and expand our horizons.
In Blue Courage we state our HOW as shaping “a Guardian’s heart and mind by meeting people where they are with love and no judgement.” This requires us to “travel” from where we are, maybe not physically, but certainly mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to meet others where they are. Every time we take or make that journey, we leave our space, go new places, learn something about who we are engaged with and something about ourselves. In doing so, with an open heart and mind, we get past the stereotypes. We decrease those penchants for bias, prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness and instead move to a place of acknowledgement, understanding, empathy, charity (love) and respect. As Mr. Twain states this travel broadens our view and understanding of people and things and we form more wholesome views about ourselves and others. Let’s get traveling.
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