Like a cartoon caricature a small boy creeps along the pool side with a plastic cup full of water in hand. His older brother stands with his back to the sun and the approaching prankster. His brother holds a book in hands and his eyes dart back and forth over the words as he enjoys the warm afternoon sun on his back.
His little brother, now just meters from him lets out a small giggle as the excitement builds in his mind. The older brother absorbed in his book fails to register this tell tale sign of up-coming mischievousness and continues to devour the words in front of him. With the cup of cold water now raised to head height the younger brother takes the last few steps forward towards his victim. Through years of learnt behaviour the boy starts to run backwards almost as soon as the cup leaves his hand and splashes cold water all over his brother.
The older brother stands with wide eyes as his brain tries to catch up with what has just happened. And then, after a few exaggerated seconds, he sets off in pursuit of his younger brother in an elaborate chase.
I sit back in my chair and laugh to myself as I watch the two young boys disappear off behind a nearby building.
And so the old phrase, kids will be kids, once again proves to be true.
Consistently one of my reflections of working and travelling abroad has been the universality of children’s behaviour. As much as we are taught to learn about our differences, when you make a silly face behind an adults back at a 6 year old they will let out a small giggle. This has been proven to work almost everywhere I have been. It’s as true for my nephew and niece as it is for street children in Kampala.
Just try and find me a 6 year old who wouldn’t relish the opportunity to pour a glass of cold water over their brother’s head!
While most except, even if they don’t celebrate, these similarities between kids across the world few seem to be interested in finding similarities between people like me and you – adults.
Whenever I travel I always find it fascinating to observe the often stark similarities that also exist between adults.
This habit has only been exacerbated by my recent work in palliative care.
Inherent within palliative care are human issues that impact on us all. Love, loss, and death are things we can’t escape. Although we all respond differently to these emotions, and of course our cultures shape these responses, there are also marked similarities.
The look in the eyes of someone who has just lost someone they love is found in the villages of Kampala the same as it is in inner-city Ottawa. I have seen this first hand.
This then begs the question why we are interested so much in the differences between us and so uninterested in these striking similarities?
In the last few months I have been lucky enough to spend time in some wonderful cities around the world including Johannesburg, Ottawa, London and Kampala. Invariably when I’ve returned and met up with friends and family one comment will crop up in conversation before long…
It must be a bit different being back [insert place name] after coming from [insert place name]
Now this might just be me, but whenever people say this to me I can’t help but to think… ‘no, not really…’
This liberal ‘aren’t we all the same deep down’ flow of consciousness isn’t intended to undermine some of the problematic differences between us (some people have access to clean running water, millions don’t…some people respond to loss by lashing out, others devote themselves to helping others) but it is to say that I think it wouldn’t hurt to sometimes take stock of the similarities we see between us and celebrate them.
After all, this is what makes us human!
I can’t help to think that celebrating these similarities might also make us that bit more tolerant of our differences when they do crop up.