So I’ve been living in my apartment since July. Other than my family’s visit over Labor Day, I haven’t entertained at the loft…well, until this past Wednesday. “The Loft”…that’s what I call my place. I live on the top floor of a shopping complex; next to a fitness club and with the view below. To say this chapter has been therapeutic is an understatement. I enjoy waking up before dawn to the smell of freshly baked bread and a view that heralds God’s magnificence.
And so for the past five weeks I’ve been facilitating discussions among a group of 12 individuals from 12 different countries. Discussions cover a range of topics from migration to terrorism, transnational organized crime and gender equality. These amazing professionals from various fields have taught me so much since we started this journey together. They are part of a larger group of 105 participants attending a course on applied security.
Last Saturday we held a Culture Night where all 105 participants got a chance to showcase their individual cultures with food, drinks, pictures, and art. It was an amazing event…so much food from as far as Honduras all the way to Afghanistan and South Africa. But then on Wednesday, I experienced a different kind of culture night when 10 of the 12 in my discussion group dropped by my apartment. I knew some of them were fans of music from the 80s and so I had a video playlist projecting on the wall. The balcony seemed to become a nice gathering spot despite the cold but clear night. We talked about family, travels, and joked about the teams loss during volleyball. I learned more about them as individuals, their aspirations, likes, and dislikes. I also marveled at how this group that five weeks ago had never met, came to become a well-oiled intellectual and social machine.
Back inside I switched roles from party host to “Karaoke DJ”. Hearing people from so many different countries sing along to Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”, Fugees “Killing Me Softly”, or Michael Jackson’s “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” was a hoot. Frank Sinatra’s “I Did It My Way” was the fan favorite. But, the highlight came when I asked each of them to pick a favorite music video from their country. I then played the video on the big screen and we all got to enjoy a healthy sampling of world music. It was so much fun to see each of them temporarily forget the challenges each of their countries faced while excitingly digging through YouTube for a favorite music video. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk about the universality of music and how people with so many differences can also have so much in common while coming together to sing popular tunes.
What a night…definitely up there among the memorable ones!
There’s just something about fellowship, even through music, that connects humanity and opens us up to be better listeners especially in the company of those who don’t look, sound, or even live like us. I am blessed to have had a rich multicultural journey thus far and one that has less to do with the places I’ve been but more to do with the people I’ve encountered.
“Show hospitality to one another without complaining. Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of the varied grace of God.” — 1 Peter 4:9-11 (NET)