“Experience” is not what happens to you…
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you” — Aldous Huxley
I saw these quotes recently, not together, but they seemed to belong in the same thought. They made me think about what we do with our experience. How do we invest what has happened to us into making things better, different or easier? How has the world changed for you, or, how have you changed the world for others?
When we start to add up all the impact that expats have made, it’s quite a sizable contribution. I’m not sure society at large realizes how much expats bring back with them when they repatriate. It’s been well documented that employers don’t always realize what value they have in returning staff. Attrition rates confirm that expats too often feel like fish out of water when they repatriate.
But the stories and experiences we share with our neighbors and friends, the show and tell items our kids take to school, the lessons learned we write about on blogs, the work of organizations we contribute to like FIGT and more, they all add up.
The books above are the result of a visit I made to Baku before I moved there to open my business. I had visited our exchange student’s family before she came to live with us, and thought a unique gift would be an Algebra book instead of chocolates or flowers, or some schlocky U.S. Capitol made of plastic. It turned out that both the mother and the father were professors of mathematics in a school that had no classroom sets of books. They would take a lesson, translate it and then copy it for the class. No one had a book to take home for homework or reading. (Our kids might love that at first, but would quickly see what they were missing!)
When I returned to Houston, the mother- Elmira- casually asked me for another book to help in her teaching of geometry. Hmmm… an opportunity! As the business year-end was coming, I heard that the oil company I worked for had charitable funds left and was searching for ideas. What happened next was written about in ‘Azerbaijan International” magazine (Modern Math, or When1+1=135, by Anne Kressler) and shared around the world, sparking many such sponsorships and gifts of school supplies. One act led to many, and each one helped many.
The cup below is another reminder. It was presented to me after a talk given to the Rotary Club of Copperas Cove Texas.
A chance meeting turned into an opportunity to share my story of travel to Azerbaijan to teach young people business skills. I was given 30 minutes plus time for Q&A. After 45 minutes the questions kept coming. Though the meeting had to adjourn, the group asked if I would stay on. An hour more and people finally decided to take this up at a second meeting. A charitable project was adopted and an orphanage benefited.
I got a cup, but babies got a new washer and dryer… seemed like a fair trade to me.
So, what can you do with the knowledge and memories that you have?
Can you talk to a children’s group at the library? Share stories at a nursing home? Join an intercultural discussion at the local community college or high school social studies class?
There are many places where people would love to hear your side of life, and it might spark a connection that starts a ball rolling somewhere. Are there other places that you have already shared stories that we could add to this list? Tell me about what you do. Give me ideas about what else I can do!