During the 1980s, we used to have pen-pals.  That was when snail mail was the norm and most people had at least one overseas friend whom they communicate with every month.  There were even pen-friend groups where one could join and choose from which country they would want an acquaintance.  Pen-pals would exchange stories about their families, schools, and daily activities.   Since it was quite exciting to receive letters from other countries, we didn’t think much about it.  It was just so much fun.  Similarly, we now have countless chatrooms in the internet. Whether it is in a game or a hobby, people would communicate with others who are far, far away.  Technology has made it much faster and easier now, and human beings have not changed.  We have a desire to reach out to people who have different races, cultures, and beliefs.

We might easily be one of thousands who have nurtured a friendship with someone from a background unlike ours.  He might be of a different race or religion.  Being friends with a person who has a culture which we are not familiar with can be very refreshing.  It helps us not only learn about other countries, but also make us more open-minded.  Being unprejudiced is very rare nowadays.  It is a trait that is very necessary, though, in keeping communities nonviolent and free from gossip.  A world which is free from judging eyes and deceitful mouths, albeit improbable, would be ideal.  Another benefit we get is keeping in tow what is important in life.  We realize sooner or later that although we have many differences, if we focus on our similarities, we see that these are the essentials in life: love of family and friends, education, integrity, and the like.  Across the world, these are perhaps the only things we have in common with everyone else.  Befriending someone who is so unlike us helps us notice the values we have which are exactly the same.

Aside from culture, we may have a friend whose financial situation is not the same level as ours.  We might mistake rich people as ones who are not pressured to fit in.  Surprisingly, having it easy in terms of spending habits does not automatically mean they have no trouble maintaining friendships.  They are continuously wary of people taking advantage of their wealth and consequently, often wonder if the rich should be the ones to pay for every meal or if their friends might feel badly for considering them unable to shell out.  In addition, they are the source of envy, oftentimes resulting in useless bickering with certain irrational poorer acquaintances.  In contrast, friends who are constantly on a budget are usually insecure and feel left out because their weekly allocation does not allow for dinner parties and outings.

Whatever the case, it is important to note that being sensitive to others’ financial situation is the key.  We must be careful not to judge or assume that our friends’ life events are the same as ours and that we have our own opinions and decisions based on these experiences.  No matter the race, cultural background, or financial capability, if we just take time to ask questions and sincerely learn about what is most important to our friend, we are on our way to a friendship that lasts forever.

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