Saturday, June 18, 2011


I have noticed with curiosity while being here how people with seemingly very different values become friends and socialize together.  As an example: out and about, you will see women together, some of whom are wearing full burka and hijab, others in more "revealing" Western clothing (like a t-shirt with knee-length skirt) and hair down.  I always silently wondered how they happened to be of the same social group.

Not all of the fellows at ACOR are into archaeology...some of them are social researchers in various fields.  One of these fellows is doing research on Arab-American youth who are sent back to their Middle Eastern homelands for school or enculturation.  In talking with these young people, this fellow researcher told me, what is interesting is that they have experienced a different set of values in their Arab homelands than they have in America:  A general respect for all people is encouraged, regardless of how someone may be different from you.  This respect eliminates cliques and bridges wildly differing people.  Everyone is simply friends (or friendly) to everyone.  I have experienced this friendliness as well, but I was amazed that the teens she has interviewed have not experienced cliques in their schools, which are absolutely inescapable in the States.  There, everyone wants to seal themselves up in a bubble with the people who are just like them; I guess it's more comfortable to us to be surrounded by those who dress and talk and believe as we do.

Cliques are no fun.
But the down side to that kind of congregating and labeling behavior is that always, inevitably, there are many who don't fit neatly into the "bubbles of normalcy" that we create, and are left feeling unacceptable, shunned, outcast, with nowhere to belong...And those who do belong tend to become what their bubble dictates they should be; they are bound by their label rather than free to be themself.

My own natural tendency is to seal myself up in a comfortable bubble with those who are just like me.  It makes me feel secure in myself and in the world; it makes me feel stable and like all is well, and also like I myself am "normal."  But, having been forced out of that in various situations (including our time here in Jordan), I'm realizing what an amazing gift it is to befriend people who are wildly different from me, and so to see the world through a new set of eyes.  I have often felt myself on the outside of a clique, I have felt that un-belonging--so how amazing would it be if there were no boundaries on who you could and couldn't befriend?  Or should I say, would and wouldn't befriend?

unlikely friends
It would be so freeing, and so enriching!  Respect is a beautiful thing.

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