An Open Letter to My Fellow Cast Members:
I was thinking recently about what the real purpose of Up With People is/was? Was it to make a difference in the world then or make a difference in us so we could make a difference later?
Look at how much each of us has grown in the past 20 plus years. You can see it in the compassion and sincerity of our posts, in the thoughtfulness we each have for one another, the varied life experiences we are able to draw upon, the resources each individual brings…well, the list is endless.
When we first met in Tucson we were all very bright eyed and enthusiastic about what lay before us. Some were more idealistic than others and some younger in years than the rest yet older in wisdom. It was the diversity of 120 young people and Pat (just kidding!) from 17 different countries coming together and traveling throughout the world that made the experience so unique. We all had our own views of life and we were drawing upon our own experiences. But we were young and how many “experiences” did we really have?
We grew a lot during that year. Our eyes, our minds and our hearts were opened and our pool of experiences was expanded. All of this certainly has helped shape us and guide us as we have matured and taken on greater responsibilities like families, jobs, mortgages volunteer work, etc. I think it is safe to say that 20 years ago we thought we were making a difference in the world but the real difference was being made in us.
We took our limited knowledge of life and traveled across the world, singing about peace and tolerance and we lived in the homes of people we had never met. While our Host Families certainly learned something from us, we learned so much more from them.
Now imagine if we were to do it all again, only this time being the age we are now, having all the experiences we have had. What a unique perspective we would be able to bring.
Yes, some of the dance moves would have to be scaled back and we would need to go from having a nurse travel with us to now having a full medical staff including a chiropractor. But think of what a different experience it would be not just for us, but everyone we came in contact with.
Think about some of those late night conversations you had with a host father, host sister or your room mate. What would be your reaction or response to what they had to say or ask you? I remember one host brother who even then I knew was headed the wrong way in life and going to end up in jail or dead. What would I say to him now that I didn’t have the knowledge or courage to say to him then?
It is not realistic to think we could drop everything and head out on a bus today, but how can we use this in our own communities? From what I have learned about each of you since rekindling this relationship, we all in some way are making a difference where we live and with those we come in contact. All I can say is keep doing it. I think only today are we beginning to see the fruits or our year in UWP.