I met three interesting women last night via the International Visitor Leadership Program arranged by the World Learning Visitor Exchange Program. Here as part of the Women and Entrepreneurship Project, Bindu from Sri Lanka, Nedaa from Saudi Arabia and Seema from Oman all shed light on life, work and women in each of their respective countries.
Once before I’ve been to one of these dinners where someone in St Louis (charming Nisha and Stacy) hosts visitors for a evening meal in their home, after the visitors (as part of a larger group) have gone to businesses, schools etc during the day. What I find is a slow start as strangers from various parts of the world feel out the group and dutifully, almost mechanically, begin to touch on topics directly pertaining to the visit. And then quickly the room warms. Passion and emotions begin to take the conversation to amazing places where people dig deep to bring new and interesting information to the table and stretch themselves to allow for understanding. And while there are cultural and/or religious differences in each of our worlds, those seem to dwindle and fade as we find what is common, what binds and connects.
These women I met were incredibly warm, interesting, fun and brave. In a few short hours we went from sitting on the couch politely asking and answering questions, to a party-like atmosphere filled with individual and group conversations, laughter and photo-taking to remember the evening. By the time I left, it felt much like I had come to a place where good friends had gathered to share what is important in their lives.
It is remarkable how far you can come in knowing someone in such a short space of time. I suppose when you open up and feel free to share, when you focus on that which you love and feel passionate about doing and projecting in your life, barriers drop. You realize how very much we are tied to those all around the world – how very much we share with people whom we have never met.
It makes me wonder what amount of progress could be made if we started our conversations from this place. It makes me wonder how I can personally bring more into each interaction of my day. And of course, my noticing and wondering about these things has already set my intention to bring this about in my life. That’s a big step in itself.