Some years ago when our sons were quite young our family traveled from Little Rock, Arkansas to Estes Park, Colorado for a summer vacation. Our sons have always been great travelers, but this was the first long trip for our second son by car. We had driven a few hours--long enough to leave Arkansas and be in Oklahoma--when he first asked, "Are we there yet?" We were many miles from "there." Texas and New Mexico still lay ahead, not to mention the drive northward into Colorado and our eventual destination at Estes Park. So we heard the question several more times.
The issues of cultural competency, diversity, inclusion, strategic planning, organizational development, conflict resolution, team-building, cross-cultural understanding, and globalization invite us to rethink the "Are we there yet?" question, especially when it comes to understanding the meaning of "neighbors." For most of human history, we defined "neighbors" as people who are close to us in kinship, location, language, custom, nationality, or thought. Before automobiles and airliners made travel across distances more convenient, "neighbors" were the people we knew because they were near us and somewhat like us.
But time and modern life have changed how we live, work, communicate, travel, and think. At one time, people who lived in different areas of the same country might not have considered themselves neighbors, and may never have encountered each other. Now people who live in Seoul can communicate with people in Seattle over the Internet. This Blog allows people from many different places to be "near" each other--in one sense--thanks to the Internet. Thanks to the great ingenuity, hard work, and dedication of countless people, you and I can choose to be near, choose to know, and choose to understand people, places, and situations that were once unthinkable. We can choose to become neighbors, choose to work together, learn together, grow together, and live together with all the challenges and opportunities that means.
Or we can choose to remain strangers. We can choose to not know, remain distant, and not understand others who live, work, act, and think different from us. We can travel through our years separate, distant, as strangers, and even as aliens. We can choose to be uninformed and uncaring about other people in other places and spaces. We can choose to work, learn, grow, earn, live, and die as strangers--even as aliens--because others are different. By doing so, our differences become the walls that not only separate us, but the reasons we give each other for refusing to become neighbors.
What we cannot choose is to return to the time when "neighbor" was defined by nearness and similarity. Now we live in a global neighborhood. We eat, work, travel, play, learn, and hope in a smaller and more interdependent world. That will not change. We are closer now, with all our similarities and differences, and it will ever be so.
The awesome challenges and opportunities we face to understand others, cooperate with others, trust others, help others, and hope with others are like the miles that separated Little Rock from Estes Park on that summer vacation trip our family took years ago. We can and should ask ourselves "Are we neighbors yet?" Doing so will allow us to know and grow through the challenges and opportunities of understanding and working with people who are different from us. In every time and place, "neighbors" are people who choose to help us and the people we choose to help in work, play, and the rest of life.
At Griffen Strategic Consulting (GSC), the focus is on helping people assess the challenges and opportunities of our changing time, develop strategies, define objectives, and accomplish goals as neighbors. That focus is built on the belief that neighbors are people who choose to live together, work together, laugh together, grieve together, play together, and hope together, with all our similarities and differences, because we need each other. GSC is glad to share a part in our global neighborhood and help whoever we can, when we can, where we can, however we can. We share the challenges and opportunities of our time as your neighbors.