March 17

By Duke Cowart. Clap, clap, clap: The sound the chapati flour makes as it is tossed carefully and flawlessly between Myah’s hands. Smoke begins to billow in the attic and I can’t even pry my eyelids open without my eyes tearing up. Looking through the hazy attic it is hard to not notice her infectious smile as she prepares the flavorful meal we are about to eat. She was not fazed by the smoke that pushed me downstairs to the living room. The rest of the my host family were all sitting peacefully watching the Australia versus India cricket match. I take that back, not everyone was sitting peacefully. Anushka (5), the oldest sister of my host family was running around in laughter with her little infant sister following in the same sentiment. They ran through the main doors of the house out to the front porch, which had a lengthy drop without any guard railing. One would think the parents would chase after and reprimand the children. However, the rest of the students in my host family group were within arms reach of the children. The family trusted that this group of strangers from a foreign nation would stop the children from falling. There is something to be said about this trust that stems from the sense of community within Agora.

During one of our extensive group discussions, one of the main talking points was community and the strong sense of it among the people of Agora. I had a thought during that discussion about how the United States is commonly referred to as a “melting pot” of cultures, and with that comes associated complications. Agora is a village that has one culture, and it has been that way for hundreds of years, while the United States is a country with a multitude of different races and cultures. Agora has the strongest sense of community I have ever felt. For example, there were several times when host families ran out of food for a meal and they simply went to their neighbor’s house to get some more food. This may seem strange to us from the West; that level of community is unique to Agora. However, can we blame Westerners for lack of community among neighborhoods? Many Western societies like the United States have several different races and cultures residing in the same neighborhoods. While this is often viewed as a good thing, and I would agree, it does tend to lead to a lack of community. For many, it is difficult to reach out to people who are not similar in ways of thinking, dressing, or acting. This is in part due to the human condition. And for years it has been manipulated by different sources who highlight the dangers of society and other concerns. The divides within Western societies are clear, especially within the United States politically, and these have all been perpetuated by an array of different sources.

I think it is our challenge as a human race to see past differences and connect with others. Go knock on your neighbors door and offer to help with some chores. Easier,  just talk to them. If people in a community collectively began to connect, a stronger sense of community would develop. Take interest in people and their differences; it can do nothing but help your understanding of them and the world. If everyone understands and is able to empathize with others the world would be a much happier and more productive place.

2 responses to “Reach Out”

  1. Dave's Mom Avatar
    Dave’s Mom

    Duke – The people of Agora experience a much less “cluttered” life than the rest of us. They are constantly focused on each other and the tasks to live their beautiful lives. Peace and respect run deep in that village. Yet “organized chaos” reigns in Delhi in particular. I think that the guiding principles of these people are respect, understanding, faith and love. Do you agree and would you add any others?
    Welcome home!

  2. jbyersccs Avatar

    What a great post, Duke. There was a myth in the USA–and I think there was truth to it–that people used to go next door to borrow a cup of sugar or some milk or flour. That was long ago and far away. Our culture now features neighborhoods where people are surprised to find out that the person next door is dangerous or in crisis. Why? Because we never really got to know them. It takes time and time is precious, but isn’t it worthwhile? Absolutely. Your post is a great reminder about the demands and joys of communities that make time to know each other.

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