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What I learned at the Peace Corps Cross-Cultural Seminar in Benin

cross-cultural work requires people putting hands together

As a Peace Corps Volunteer from 1998 to 2000, I was one of three volunteers chosen to represent Peace Corps Guinea at a cross-cultural seminar in Benin. There was a lot of discussion about culture and the interactions between those of different cultures. One proverb we talked about says, “The fingers on the hand don’t have to look the same, they just have to work together.”

The sentiment behind this proverb can still be applied today. The U.S. doesn’t have one culture. America isn’t the melting pot it once touted to be. Instead, the United States is a country made of different cultures that work together for the betterment of the nation. Each one of us has a part in improving the life quality of everyone else around us and all those who live here. We may not have the same cultures, but as long as we aren’t harming others, we can work together to make life better for the entire population.

Look at your own hand and flex your fingers. A couple of your fingers are weaker; a couple are stronger. One is opposable. None of the fingers want to get rid of the pinkie because it only seems to get in the way. The fingers aren’t jealous of the ring finger because it wears jewelry. The other fingers don’t rail against the angry finger when it does its impression of a flipping bird. Despite their differences, your fingers work together to grasp that morning cup of coffee and bring it to your mouth.

While your fingers know how to work together through years of practice, the same can’t be said about people from different cultures, even in the United States. Your hand uses its fingers instinctively. You don’t have to think about which finger goes where and how much pressure it should apply to accomplish the job. Your fingers have all of their needs met by the hand. It’s different with people. We have to learn to work together with respect, love, and joy. If it came to us naturally when we were young, we have often forgotten it by the time we reach the ages of responsibility and work. Maybe it will help if we remember our own hands when we meet someone who is different from us for any reason. After all, its our differences that make the U.S. great not our homogeneity.

My Life in the Peace Corps: Letters from Guinea, West Africa” will be released on Dec. 28, 2020 in eBook format on Amazon. I will try to publish the paperback on Amazon about that same time. If you want to get it quickly, watch my Facebook page for a link. If you want an autograph, you can pre-order the paperback on Penguinate.com. As soon as I get some copies, I will sign them and send them out. This process will take longer than ordering directly from Amazon because I cannot order them ahead of time.

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