Last week, my brother's high school friend, Vinny came to the beach house to join my family for a surprise visit. We grilled him and his girlfriend for a few hours on what it is like to live abroad. We found that he has has a number of new perspectives on American waste and excess. (Clearly, it's easier to see the culture that you come from when adopting the perspective of a bona-fide outsider living in a different culture.)
Vinny has come back from Europe with a keen interest in the quality of the food. In Germany, they don't as much have to label things with "Organic" there because that's a given. Many members of my family were struck with how his experience living and working abroad seems to be having this effect of making him simultaneously more self-aware and more conscious about his choices in a very authentic way.
The Vinny that partied so hard at the beach that he lost every other day to a hangover seems to be history. Instead, I find that Vinny is further down the road to flourishing than I have ever seen him.
And... Vinny didn't go to Germany looking for change. He took an assignment from work... and then another assignment... one foot in front of the other.
It makes me reconsider the efforts we put into nagging and cajoling and reasoning with the people we love about how we should be and act. Often, valid arguments are met with a person's resistance, but even when it doesn't result in a heated argument, I question whether the discussion results in deep and long-lasting change. What if, instead of wasting a lot of energy thrashing we just enjoy our relations just as they are?
Looking at Vinny's trajectory, I am inspired to hope. Long lasting personal change might best come from going into the world with an open-heart. It might come best from living outside your comfort zone, whether by moving to a foreign country or by doing really unusual things in the town you grew up in.
Some of us burn in our hearts to make personal change and growth happen for ourselves. And if we find ourselves to be stuck in place, maybe we just need to make room for unusual experiences outside our comfort zone to happen for a limited time and let our experiences have their way with us.