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Take The Time To Get To Know One Another

August 6, 2009
By Jamie Probst, MSW

It seems like such a short time ago that I found myself associating only with people I perceived to be like myself.

It wasn’t an accidental thing, it was very much intentional. I felt that the only people who could understand me are those who are like myself, why associate with people who are so different that they don’t understand where you are coming from?

Thank God I finally woke up one day and realized how foolish my logic was.

So often I think that we segregate ourselves, hiding away amongst some inner sanctum of friends who “get” us. Often times I think we, at least I did, scoff at those different from us.

Why do we do this?

I think it is because there is a comfort in being with those who are like us. We feel we don’t need to explain ourselves, and that our friends will immediately understand. Sure comfort is a great thing, we all need that.

But to always do certain things or associate with certain people simply because it is comfortable, truly limits our knowledge and experience.

One of my favorite happenings on earth is found just a short drive from Westfield, in Sherman New York. The event I am referring, as many Chautauqua County natives will recognize, is The Blue Heron Music Festival. The festival is composed of three solid days of wonderful music, performed in the woods in Amish country. People, including myself, camp out for the weekend in the woods, establishing little communities of friends and families. There are a great number of trails sprawled throughout the woods, and one of my favorite parts of the festival is simply wandering through the woods to mingle with people I’ve never even met. As you walk by people’s campsites it is customary to say hello, and wish people a “happy heron!”

In this place you will find city folk, country people, Canadians, Americans, Europeans, punks, Goths, straight people, gay people, black people, Hispanic people, and well….the list goes on longer than I can. All of these people, who might not normally get along, get along, and have fun together in this setting.

People associate with people they would never ordinarily speak to. Often times as you walk by someone’s camp they will invite you in to share a beer or food. Everyone is your friend, regardless of who you are or where you come from.

Each year I think to myself that in the “real world” we should strive to be more like that. We spend way too much time ignoring people, and not enough time saying “hello.” We need to stop paying attention to where people come from in life and pay more attention to where they might be going. Just a smile and a friendly hello have the power to change someone’s day.

When we pass someone on the street we have no idea what trials they are going through in life. Just acknowledging them as a human being can give them power to change their life, a power they might not normally have.


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