No matter where they live, people are people

enjoyingthegamebybrucestambaugh
Baseball fans enjoying a game.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I find people fascinating, a joy to watch. I can easily pass the time observing crowds at airports, sporting events, meetings or shopping.

Humans come in a kaleidoscope of shapes, sizes, races and ages. They adorn themselves with a variety of intriguing duds and accessories. I marvel at and learn from their diversifications.

mariebybrucestambaugh
Marie was tickled pink that I wanted to take her picture on the dock at Lakeside, OH.
I remember a specific time many years ago when the shoe was on the other foot. My wife and I were visiting her cousin in southern California. Barb had two daughters, ages two and three months. Our daughter was two months old.

I was informed that we were going shopping one afternoon at the local mall. We were quite the sight and unintentionally created an intriguing distraction as we sauntered around the sprawling mall with a toddler and two infants in strollers and two lovely mothers and one man.

When I volunteered to care for the girls while the women ducked into a few stores, the fun began. We became the mall’s main attraction. The kids drew passing shoppers in like they were magnets.

I found myself engaged in conversations with people curious about the children. Were the babies twins? When I said they were born three weeks apart, I could see the mental wheels turning in the questioners’ heads.

When my wife and her cousin, who are close in age, returned to check on us, the eyebrows really arched. People’s non-verbal communication revealed their conceptual inferences about one man, two wives, and three little girls.

learningaboutconflictbybrucestambaugh
Dr. Catherine Barnes (center) taught the Conflict Analysis course during the Summer Peacebuilding Institute at Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, VA.

In reality, that’s how we operate as social beings. We reach conclusions based on what we see, and interpret observations based on our own life’s experiences and values. Many times, like my mall experience, those assumptions frame and tilt what reality is if the truth is not properly explored.

Recently I was asked what the single most important point I had learned at the Summer Peacebuilding Institute that I had attended in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The answer flowed easily.

“The most significant concept I learned was that people are people,” I said. Not exactly profound, but true nonetheless.

Not wanting to come across as cryptic, I further explained my seemingly glib answer. Based on what I had gained first hand from my global classmates, we all strive and often struggle for the exact same things. We desire basic human needs and rights regardless of our culture, race, religion, wealth, ethnicity, or gender.

groupprocessingbybrucestambaugh
Much of the SPI class involved small group interaction among class members.

Our modest class consisted of female and male inhabitants from four continents, 13 countries, and multiple races and religions. Yet, we were all there for one common purpose. We wanted to gain practical and applicable methods for understanding and resolving conflict.

To that end, the cultures, traditions, and primary languages of each class member became secondary to the overall goal. No barrier would deter our learning, thanks to an outstanding professor guiding dedicated students.

We all had too much to lose by allowing prejudice to cloud our thinking. After all, most of the astute class members would return home to implement and teach the knowledge they had acquired. In too many situations, that would be done in hostile, dangerous, unstable conditions.

Our class discussions easily revealed that people universally desire the same life goals. We all need food, shelter, security, identity, dignity and the freedom to grow and explore in an ever-changing, challenging world.

No political bend could deny the obvious. Regardless of roots of origin, people are indeed people, and they ache to be treated accordingly.

classmatesbybrucestambaugh
Friendships formed from the classroom interactions.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

The best thing about vacations

Leaving the harbor by Bruce Stambaugh
Fishermen leave the harbor at Fernandina Beach, FL.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Vacation is one of my favorite words. Perhaps it’s because it’s one of those duplicitous words in the English language that can be used as either a noun or a verb.

I love to go on vacation. We will vacation at the beach. Either way, the end result is still the same. Vacation is vacation.

My wife and I are fortunate to be at a point in our lives where we can get away, if only for a few days, without much hassle. When friends invited us to share a house with them in sunny Florida for a week, we cleared our schedules and confirmed our reservations.

When you live in northern Ohio and it’s wintertime, there’s only one direction to go on vacation, and that is south. Clearly, I’m not a snow skier. At my age, I prefer the warmth to cold, and so do my old bones.

Siesta sunset by Bruce Stambaugh
Sunset at Siesta Key Beach, Sarasota, FL.

It’s more than climate that draws us away from our familiar digs, Holmes Co., Ohio, where up to four million visit annually. Most visitors to our area, however, choose spring, summer and especially fall to roam the bucolic Holmes County hills.

Our curiosity and desire for adventure draw us away from our own congenial vistas as much as anything. We love to explore new places as well as revisit familiar ones.

Our gracious Florida hosts planned plenty of interesting activities for us during our weeklong stay. Fortunately, we enjoy many similar activities as our friends. Like us, they prefer to pace themselves. It was vacation after all. No reason to rush.

I could bore you with a verbal slideshow of our trip. I’ll just say we had a great time, whether we were on the most beautiful beach in the country, which we were, or enjoying an enlightening and informative historical tour, which we did.

Florida House by Bruce Stambaugh
The Florida House, Fernandina Beach, FL, is the oldest operating hotel in Florida.

Instead, I want to tell you about some of the people we encountered along the way. It happens wherever we go. I am fascinated and appreciate the kindness of pure strangers we encounter on our travels. Meeting new people is one of the vacation perks.

Sure, there are a few goofballs almost everywhere. But for the most part, we have found people to be absolutely engaging, matching the gorgeous scenery that surrounds them.

It is hard to single out any one person in Mt. Airy, North Carolina. Everyone we met seemed like a familiar character from Mayberry.

Captain Dave by Bruce Stambaugh
Captain Pajama Dave piloted our Beach Creek tour at Fernandina Beach, FL.
The young and enthusiastic park ranger near Mt. Mitchell on the Blue Ridge Parkway was most helpful. He directed us to Asheville when we found the road unexpectedly closed.

The kind lady at the Venice Rookery who encouraged us to return at dusk to watch the hundreds of nesting egrets, herons and ibises settle in for the night was a pure gem. Even a non-birder would marvel at that experience.

Another amazing individual was our tour boat captain at Fernandina Beach, Florida. Captain Dave was as cordial and passionate about his lovely habitat as the history of the area was interesting. His trademark bright red Elmo pajama pants fit his personality and his passion for nature’s handiwork that he so eloquently pointed out.

Juniper by Bruce Stambaugh
The precocious Juniper.

Finally, there was 2-year-old Juniper, the petite and perky daughter of some friends in Charlotte. We had never met her. Yet by evening’s end, she wanted “Pruce” to read her one more book.

To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, Oh the places we’ve been and the people we’ve met. Together they make vacation a charmed word in our household.