Several years ago I lived in Australia. I remember walking one day with a friend when we saw an aboriginal who was fishing with a throw net. It was beautiful to watch.
We walked up and started talking to him. He met our intervention with a very distant and guarded response. It was the response I have so often seen from aboriginals. Instead of withdrawing we asked about the fish in his bucket. He said a few words explaining that they were bait fish. He used them to catch bigger fish and he pointed to two lines in the water. He cast his net and we expressed genuine appreciation for his skill.
He seemed influenced by our appreciation. Just then one of his lines started to move, he had a bite. He ran to it but the fish was gone. Then the other line started to move he ran to that one but again the fish was gone. We expected some disappointment. Instead there was enthusiasm. He said, “Those are the first two bites I have had all day, you fellas brought me good luck.” He was lit up like a Christmas tree. He asked us where we were from and volunteered lots of information about his fishing. We felt genuinely connected to him. We told him we would check in on our walk back. He was pleased. On our walk back he waved and shouted to us of his progress.
I loved that little experience. We were people from two different worlds. Yet in a matter of moments we crossed strong boundaries and became connected. I think of all the conflict in the world and all the potential there is for connection when we live in appreciation and openness. I am grateful for moments of cross-cultural connection.