Earlier this year I introduced Expats A to Z, a new series of posts about the little things that can make a difference in how we approach some of the challenges and experiences of expat life.
I’m talking about those qualities and traits that we can nurture within us not only to simply survive but thrive amid constant change.
You know, the characteristics and features that can help smooth the way.
I’m not writing this series in alphabetical order because I like mixing things up.
Quite frankly, it’s a whole lot more interesting when you don’t know what’s coming next. More fun for me as well.
I do hope you’ll follow along and share your own thoughts and experiences.
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T is for Thoughtful
Over the past few years I have come to appreciate the word ‘thoughtful’ more than just about any other word in the English language.
Why? you ask. Well, just think about it (pun fully intended).
The word ‘thoughtful’ has many nuanced meanings.
It can mean being aware, mindful, taking heed: It’s not surprising, being a new father, that Russell is now even more thoughtful about the importance of family. Choosing to repatriate back to the UK, Jack and Liam are particularly thoughtful as to the challenges of dealing with aging loved ones across great distances.
It can also be defined as being absorbed in contemplation, or meditative: Carrie’s thoughtful nature serves her well not only as a writer and artist, but as a talented sports, massage and hypno-therapist.
It can also mean being characterized by careful reasoning: As always, Jane offered thoughtful comments to the draft of my latest piece of writing.
The word can also refer to being concerned about or given to anticipating the wants and needs of others: Time and again, Maria has shown herself to be a kind and thoughtful friend.
So let’s take those same definitions and apply them to traveling and/or living across cultures.
Aisha has worked doggedly to share her thoughtful views on religious tolerance, with positive results. (Well, with the exception of a few charmers who obviously prefer spreading intolerance and hatred.)
Apple’s memoir reflects a thoughtful approach to an expatriate life lived across continents, timezones, decades and shifting eras. Matt’s thoughtful walk across Turkey fills me with hope for a world in which people seek first to truly understand.
I can always count on Anne, Norm and Judy for their thoughtful, reasoned insights into culture shock and expat transitions.
I have indeed been blessed by a wealth of thoughtful kindnesses, from the aforementioned and so many other dear members of the global expat community.
So there you go. Perhaps you’ve been on the receiving end of a handshake, hug, a few much-needed kind words (or in Matt’s case, a meal and a place to lay your head at night) when you found yourself floundering as the newbie in a decidedly different environment.
You’ve probably been thankful for an outstretched hand or deep bow and introduction that came just when you may have least expected them but needed them most; you’ve also likely reached out to more than one frustrated, ornery, angry, complaining person you’ve encountered, recognizing in them the look of someone who is really just sad, lonely or lost.
You may have been the one to welcome someone into your coffee group, your inner circle, your home or your heart. Or you’ve encouraged your own TCKs to remember what it feels like to not know anyone and reach out to the new child at school or in the neighborhood.
You might have celebrated someone’s (even your own) coming or going with truly felt words of friendship, caring and the importance of what people have meant to you along the way.
Maybe you’ve kept up via letter, email, Skype or Facebook with friends not so near but still dear, or kept tabs on someone having a hard time finding their way ‘back home’ or on to the next stop in a nomadic life.
You’ve experienced the wonder of life lived in different countries and cultures, learning firsthand that different doesn’t mean better or worse but simply different. You’ve come to appreciate the richness of the world’s tapestry, and respect the cultures, religions and ethnicities that make it so.
My guess is you’ve likely been the recipient of any number of kindnesses during your journey through this big world. I’m betting you’ve also been thoughtful according to any of the various definitions, in any number of ways. You’ve been there, done that, remembered it, reciprocated and played it forward in spades.
Such is thoughtfulness reflecting cultural tolerance, respect for tradition as well as inevitable change, and man’s humanity to fellow man.
And it fits us all to a ‘T’.
[Image credit: Vlado, portfolio 1836 at freedigitalphotos.net]