I’ve never sat in so many taxis in one week! On our family vacation in Dubai, we chose not to rent a car, so taxis were the handiest means of transportation for us. Since this city is amongst the most international in the world, our drivers were from various countries: Kenya, India, Pakistan, Jordan, etc.
Given the current political strife between the USA and Pakistan, when our driver from Pakistan found out we were Americans, he turned the subject to President Trump and politics. We gave him the opportunity to share his views and were sympathetic toward his situation. We laughed together when talking about life in general. Finally, when we were almost at our destination, he said in his broken English, “The people get along with each other and even like each other, while our governments fight.”
I saw a wonderful movie once that portrays this perfectly. It was a Hallmark Christmas movie I highly recommend called Silent Night (made in 2002). American soldiers during WWII find shelter in a cabin inhabited by a German woman and her young son. Before they can leave, a couple of German soldiers arrive seeking shelter as well. It is Christmas time and the woman insists the weapons be placed outside until they can all leave. The soldiers reluctantly agree. It’s a stirring film, forcing these soldiers to look beyond the political disagreements, propaganda, and prejudices, and finally seeing each other as human beings. The movie is thought-provoking and deeply moving.
Over the past 30 years of our marriage, my husband and I have opened our home to people from various parts of the world, often from countries where our governments are not allies. We’ve shared many meals and conversations with people who, politically, should be our enemies. The wonderful thing about opening yourself up to people from different cultures and backgrounds is that it forces you outside of your little box. You are compelled to see the world through someone else’s eyes. You are stirred toward compassion for the plight of others and gain an enlightened understanding.
God doesn’t look at the world through an American lens or even a western lens. His view encompasses the entire globe and His plans are for His Kingdom — not ours. This is how God instructed the children of Israel to treat the foreigners among them. “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:33-34 NASB)
We must never forget we were once foreigners. Maybe you, yourself, were not, but your forefathers were. How would you have wanted them to be treated? Treat others that way. I didn’t say, “How were your ancestors treated?” I asked, “How would you have wanted them to have been treated?” Jesus said, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” (Matthew 7:12 NLT) Again, he didn’t say to treat them as they have treated you, but rather, as you want them to treat you.
When I moved to this country years ago as a young girl of almost eight, I briefly attended a school in Philadelphia. I was a minority there and one girl in particular had it out for me. She picked on me whenever she found the opportunity. Not knowing the language yet, I could not defend myself well. A few months later, after my family moved to New Jersey, I attended a school in the suburbs. My second-grade teacher taught me to read in English in the back of the classroom while the other students were working on an assignment. When I became fluent in my reading, she instructed me to read a page of the book in front of the classroom. After I finished, my classmates started clapping for me. I felt accepted and welcomed. It was a wonderful feeling! Now I had a choice. I could treat others, including foreigners, as my classmate in Philadelphia had treated me or I could encourage them as my classmates in New Jersey had encouraged me. My choice determines my future.
There isn’t much we can do about how our governments treat each other outside of the voting booth, but there is much we can do for the foreigner in our town or neighborhood. Why not show kindness and let them feel welcomed? If you see someone being impatient with a foreigner or unkind, why don’t you step in and try to help them? Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
I doubt I will ever meet the taxi driver in Dubai again, but I’m glad we gave him a good impression of people in America. Should someone ever speak ill about Americans in front of this man, maybe he will remember the American family he enjoyed chatting and laughing with for a few minutes in his taxi cab in Dubai. It may not make a difference globally, but if everyone reaches out in love, imagine what an impact that would make over time.