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Forging Connections On My Gap Year

Today I started my volunteer work with the Women's Empowerment Program in India and I was grateful to be welcomed with the feeling of initial camaraderie. I thought to myself: "How will I face this language barrier? I have so much to say but it is definitely a challenge because we don't understand each other." As I sat in the classroom with my first group of 30-40 year old women, I had so many questions. For the sake of this language barrier, we started with basic introductions: name, age, number of family members, and where we lived. The director suggested that for the first day we just play some games so to my surprise one woman suggested UNO.

I said to her "UNO card game, here?" She nodded her head with a huge smile on her face. We began to play and I realized that the rules were completely different to the ones I'm used to. But the women were very patient with me, as I was learning the game little by little. After the first round, I taught them how to play the way I know the game. I would never have guessed that something so simple as a card game would help us communicate. In fact, it was a way to forget about the language barrier and have a good time.

This encounter made me think about the definition of disparity in our society. I have noticed that we often perceive our normal routine that we have grown familiar with to be the right way or even the only way of doing things. When we see things done differently, we act indifferent and do not take the time to distinguish the commonality. Today I took my time to do that, not just in this game of UNO but with our background stories as well. In doing so, I have concluded that just because things are done differently here in India, does not mean it is a disparity. I realize that being open-minded leads us to unite and have a good time.

Modern day society has forgotten to see the beauty in differences of religion, background, culture, or everyday entertainment and how the endless ways of doing things can be a way to improve tolerance around the world. In the end, all human beings are living on the same planet and the fact that we have grown up in different cultures, languages and religions is quite fascinating to me. Understanding these differences can take time and is definitely not easy. But it can start with something as simple as a card game. There are many ways to go about this thing called life but discovering the unique ways of doing it makes for a deeper connection with the human race. After all, we are living in UNO world!