It may sound simple or trite — we can learn more from each other than we thought. But, first we have to make the effort to open ourselves up, lose our expectations and preconceived notions, and look past each other’s differences and outer appearances. And we can benefit from these newfound relationships.
It can be as simple and surprising as learning something new and unexpected, like finding out your career-oriented friend has a secret passion for baking and will dish out tips if you ask. Or, meeting someone from a different culture, and, in getting to know their personal life, find they approach handling their elders in ways that give you a new perspective than your own.
The above are relatively simple, the story below, extreme. But no matter the intensity or level of difference, these examples all show how we can improve ourselves and our lives by listening and learning from others.
Sometimes even Mother Nature can’t stop the most unlikely relationships from flourishing, if those involved choose to make it work. Take the bizarre example of the kitten and the crow, a unique relationship documented on YouTube. Assuming that it’s true and not digitally altered footage, it appears that several years ago, in the warm summer months in Massachusetts, a four-month-old motherless kitten was “adopted” and cared for by a black crow.
As most people know, cats and birds have been long-standing enemies, and there’s no clear reason why this particular crow didn’t act according to species, and attack the helpless kitten. Instead, this usually unfriendly bird befriended the stray, gaining its trust to the extent that it would dig up worms, grubs and other edibles, and feed the kitten directly from its beak.
Perhaps neither of these two animals had been socialized by their own kind enough to know that they should be natural adversaries.
And that’s the point. If we all had a clean slate, no predisposed thoughts or judgments of others, we would approach people differently. We would choose our friends based on their personality and not on the clothes they wear or the colour of their skin.
If we can every so often remind ourselves that we once looked at the world through un-blinkered, un-jaded, innocent eyes, and try to again, we may be pleasantly surprised by what we see. And when we realize that it’s easier to be open and accepting, and we can all learn from each other, then we need to teach our youth the same thing.
On the romantic relationship level, there’s a line from Fiddler On The Roof that unwittingly pointed to the changes to come in an ever-diverse society, for those who are open to it: the father, Tevya, says to his daughter, “A fish and a bird may fall in love … but where will they make their home?”
In today’s world, increasingly, they would find a way.
Lisi Tesher is a much travelled freelance writer who has studied art history, photography, languages and pop culture. She is also a constant and fascinated student of relationships, maintaining contact with a worldwide network.