Hope and Healing

What is normal?

January 19, 2011General

A few years ago when my youngest daughter was in Grade 12 I took her to Afghanistan on one of my working trips. We arranged for her to go with me to villages and meet with young women of her age. These young Afghan women were incredibly interested in meeting a young Canadian, and peppered her with questions. They couldn’t believe that she not only was able to swim, but taught swimming. They actually clapped when they heard she had a driver’s license. My daughter learned and was equally amazed at their life. It was clear that my daughter’s definition of “normal” was so different than that of these young Afghan women.

On our way home to Canada we stopped in Dubai for a few days – talk about a whiplash culture shock from rural Afghanistan. Near our hotel, parked on the street was a Lamborghini car. This is one of the most expensive cars in the world and was parked casually on the street. My daughter, when she heard the cost of the car, was amazed and critical that anyone would put that much money into a vehicle, especially after what she had just seen in the villages a few days before.  I didn’t and don’t justify the cost of the car, but did remind my daughter that the cost of her trip to Afghanistan was several years worth of income for the village she had been in. If one is to be critical, than we must look at ourselves and our own actions first.

Again, it brought up the issue of what is “normal”. What is normal for us may be so out of the norm for others.

Yesterday I read a blog  on accommodations. The author said that most people don’t even realize the accommodations that go into their daily life. We ask that the sidewalks be shovelled, lights are installed in our offices so we can see, chairs so we can sit, and parking places for our cars. These are costly items – but not seen by us as accommodations or speical but normal.  Yet, when a person in a wheelchair asks that a curb cut be shovelled so they can access the sidewalks, this is an accommodation and an extra cost. When an employee who is visually impaired asks for software that can read emails – this is an accommodation and the budget is consulted.  

Again there is a different definition of what is “normal”.

I travel and see so many different definitions of normal in the world. I still have to challenge myself daily that my normal should never be assumed and the world’s normal.  Nor should my normal trump someone else’s normal. Maybe it is best to assume there is no normal and begin from there.