January 9, 2007

This I Believe: by Elizabeth George (Contributing to a world in need of balance)

I believe there is more than one way to live in the world. I have been blessed to experience life and love in other cultures. My work took me to England, where I lived for more than six years. My marriage took me into an enveloping Iranian family who considers me one of its own. When I left America, I was excited about an adventure. When I returned here four years ago, I was surprised at how much the experience had changed me. During my time in London, I had been able to see my country from a distance and to identify the ways in which growing up American had shaped the person that I had become. My experience with my Iranian in-laws who live in London presented great challenges and rewards. The Iranian people place a huge emphasis on family that translates to many days spent together, often with all of the generations present. The Iranians teach the importance of respect and practice traditions that reinforce this respect. In the Iranian culture, everything of yours is mine and everything of mine is yours. Once, upon hearing my compliments, my sister-in-law immediately took off her earrings and gave them to me. These experiences fill me with conflicting emotions — I am overwhelmed by the selfless generosity, and at theElizabeth George same time, I am unaccustomed to the differences in boundaries that I thought were the same for everyone. Reconciling these different expectations proves to be a challenge to my sense of what is normal and right. I discover that while my American family and my Iranian in-laws share the same values, we have a very different way of interpreting them. We left England and my husband’s family to raise our children in Louisville. We chose Louisville so my children could live among my extended family. It has been a truly wonderful experience. My challenge now is to ensure that our children understand both their American and Iranian heritage, and to grow up as people who see difference as an opportunity to learn. I believe every culture provides an important contribution to a world so much in need of balance — and if I can only analyze instead of criticize the values and beliefs of others, then it will help me to find the right balance in my own life. LEO, in partnership with WFPL-FM, is publishing This I Believe essays by Louisville-area residents. To write your own essay stating a core belief, go to www.thisibelieve.org. Some essays will be published or broadcast.