No matter what message you are about to deliver somewhere, whether it is holding out a hand of friendship, or making clear that you disapprove of something, is the fact that the person sitting across the table is a human being, so the goal is to always establish common ground.
You know what makes life interesting? Diversity. Difference in opinion, difference in how you were raised, different life experiences, a different culture, and different viewpoints. The United States is known as a melting pot of races, religions, ethnicity, sexuality. And with all those differences, if you look hard enough, somehow you can always find a common thread. Ultimately, we are connected one way or the other. In the US,recently a politically divided country, where all we can see is our differences by how fully we stand in our opinions, unwavering and talking, debating rather than listening I find it peculiar that we can’t seem to agree about where our country is headed.
Living in a foreign country builds perspective, you can escape the tumultuous divide, you can learn by watching other people thrive without the anger, vitriol and righteousness. Here on a small island I am observing a different sense of national pride. It’s in the way people greet each other. In the grocery store, on the street, on a dock people stop one another just to say, “Good Morning” or “How is your day?” These are not pleasantries, they are genuine exchanges meant to engage and connect. People take time with one another, not out of something to gain, but merely to express a mutual connection. Time is not rushed, the conversation unfolds and it is shared freely when you are not needing to rush off to one thing or another. “Island Time” and the space it allows is real and can really be felt and appreciated.
I like to see myself as a bridge builder, I like to hear what other people have to say, what are their views, how do they see the world through their lens? Life isn’t black or white, right or wrong, good or bad. Kindness, understanding and reaching out to one another is what we all crave deep down. It’s amazing to see how that really works and flows on a small island. People may have different styles and ways of living, but the blending and confluence of genuine connection somehow works. It is like a sweet symphony where all the individual parts come together for a greater whole.
On an island, resources are scarce and sometimes limited. But, you don’t feel that scarcity because people come together and help each other out. We fill the gaps for one another, whether it is lending a hand, giving without receipt, offering a kind gesture knowing that all is good, when we help each other and lift each other up. I don’t get the sense of what is mine is mine, and yours is yours here, because of the generosity of spirit is so easy here. You feel abundance rather than scarcity or lack.
This weekend was a beautiful demonstration of Thanks and Giving on Guana Cay. I witnessed a different way to celebrate. It had nothing to do with Black Friday shopping, gluttony or intricate, ornate tables and elaborate celebrations. In fact, it was the direct opposite. It was simplicity. It was connection. It was cooperation and festivity.
Our family hosted 30 people in our home to celebrate Thanksgiving. At first, I became stressed at how we would accommodate the numbers, with seating, food, and entertainment. How could I replicate what we do at home when we host a dinner party? I didn’t have matching table settings or decor, not even enough napkins to wipe our faces clean from our feast. There would be no Home Goods purchasing run, no mood lighting and definitely not a Martha Stewart worthy presentation.
Instead, I cobbled together conch shells for decor and drove around the island collecting bougainvillea and other tropical blooms with a friend to fill mason jars to set the table. Guests volunteered to bring side dishes to pass, and another offered to smoke two more turkeys so that there would be enough food to go around. We ate off paper plates and we took turns sitting in rotations in the limited seating that our home provided.
Without the accouterments of The United States, we were able to collectively create a beautiful Thanksgiving feast. With several ferry boat trips to and from the main island for groceries, call outs for certain ingredients to one another for our dishes, and scrambling last minute items like my friend Ryan wondering if the island yams would suffice for his mother’s sweet potato casserole recipe… it all came together beautifully.
Everyone is from a different part of the world, different backgrounds, different cultures, different religions all now living in harmony. Nothing is forced and we are all open to learning from one another. Some of us are ex-patriates of the US, some born locally, some from Jamaica, others from South Africa. Some are raising children, others living separate from their families back home, some seeking relationships and romance. We are all different in our upbringing and culture, but that is what makes the blend so beautiful. We are not homogeneous. One thing is for sure, we share a common thread, we revere the beauty of the island, we embrace the plentiful but small inconveniences, we look after one another and understand that this way of living, even though sometime is a struggle, it is a gift.
On Thanksgiving, we played a fun game where we each wrote on a piece of paper what we are thankful for and placed it in a jar. Then we passed around the jar and each person read aloud another person’s expression of gratitude. Lots of laughter ensued and we saw that we are very grateful for a lot of the same things: our families, friendship, sunsets, oceans, animals and the gift of health. In fact, the theme was so common it was hard to distinguish who the gratitude message was coming from.
The weekend commenced with a celebratory Jingle Jog around Orchid Bay. The whole island came out dressed in festive Christmas garb to raise money for our small fire and rescue team on our island. All of us together, laughing, mingling, jingling , being healthy and active while celebrating the kick off the Christmas season. People donated homemade treasures for a raffle, others baked cookies and breads to sell, some donated toys and gifts for a fun gift exchange game. We poured mimosas and decorated the town Christmas tree. People donated their time to organize and you could feel the abundance of smiles and general goodwill for each other.
When you witness this generosity and kindness of peace and goodwill in the Bahamas, you can’t help but wonder where America has lost their way. Political infighting, fortifying borders with extreme force, discrimination and violence infiltrating churches, schools, concerts and yoga studios. Capitalism and greed that fuel fires without regard for the environment. In a country that has strong patriotism and love of country, I can’t help but wonder where has the real sense of community fallen apart?
Cooperation, empathy, compassion and abundance is what creates harmony and peace. It isn’t the money in your bank account, the taxes you pay, the car you drive, the clothes you wear. It is about reaching out. Outstretching your arms to your fellow man. Offering a hand up not seeing it as a hand out, but rather an opportunity for connection.
In this holiday season, I encourage you to do your part in the symphony of community. What part can you play so that life is harmonious? Share your gift of presence. Take time for others and for yourself. See past the things that separate us and instead find a common ground. Open your heart and listen for that beautiful music of hope, love, joy, community and peace.