There is Always an “Other”

In any community, there is always going to be an “other”. Now, this “other” is undoubtedly going to vary depending on what community you are looking at. For example, from my perspective when I think of Dickinson I would consider a group of “others” to be non-athletes. Since my first day at Dickinson every single one of my friends has been an athlete, and that often leads to me feeling like I am on the outside. While this is a very minor example, and there are probably people in the Dickinson community who feel as though being an “other” really impacts them on a daily basis, this was the first thing that popped into my head.

When I started to think of my town, it was hard for me to place who I thought would be grouped as an “other” in the community. While I would love to be able to say that I grew up in a diverse community where everyone shares and embraces their differences, the truth is I didn’t. In my grade school, everyone was the same. Our parents all worked similar jobs, we all lived in similar houses, and we all had after school activities that we would rush to once the school day came to a close. When I look back on high school, it was a chillingly similar experience. Given that it was a private high school where boarding was an option, the biggest difference in our lives was that we did not share the same school district and some people had to travel further than others every morning.

So needless to say, I had a feeling that writing this blog post would be a challenge for me. Should I write an entire post on how I (sometimes) feel on the outside because I am not an athlete at Dickinson? Should I write about that one time that I felt uncomfortable in Catholic school when I was still a Methodist and had to watch all of the other kids practice for their First Communion? Definitely not.

As I was struggling to decide what to write about, I turned to my friends and family and asked them who they thought would be considered the “others” in the small town of Newtown, PA. My dad immediately made me think about such a large group of people in my community that people often forget about because you rarely see them. When I began to think about this perspective, I realized that there are so many people in my community who are probably very often unaccounted for because they are not who people would typically picture when they think of my area. They are the people who are behind the scenes and really make the town what it is. They are the people who are running every successful landscaping business in the community, owning most of the stores that we use weekly, and working to prepare the meals when we go out to eat.

I had never thought about the group of people who have immigrated to the US who make up a fairly large part of my community and how they are probably the most prominent group of “others”. In my day to day life at home I rarely interact with these people. A woman and her sister have come to my house to clean every 2 weeks for nearly my whole life, and while I have interacted with them countless times, Polish is their first language and the language barrier has always stopped me from really getting to know them. A friend of mine, Madie, also has had the same woman coming to her house for practically her whole life. Her name is Sonia. I have met Sonia multiple times, but have never really had a conversation with her. Over the years Sonia and my friends mom got very close, so close that when Sonia was eventually diagnosed with cancer, Madie’s family bought her a car to help make getting to treatment easier for her. This is a story that will always warm but heart, but when I think about the “others” in my community, it is sad that I can only think of one person who has developed such a close relationship with someone they welcome into their house on a weekly basis.

I understand completely how lucky I have been my whole life to have had the privileges that I do. Putting this into perspective has really made me reevaluate my community, and has pushed me to think about the “others”, and how living in Newtown, PA must make them feel. What are their lives like? What is being an outsider in a town that everyone is so similar like? It has honestly motivated me to find out and to work on making connections with them in the future. It makes me think about how where you’re from is a huge part of your identity. For all of these people, the “others” in my town, that part of their identity isn’t with them anymore. While living in Newtown may be a new part of their identity, it makes me wonder what it feels like to have another part of them missing, or even how out of place they must feel in a community that I have always gone to for comfort.


Where I live; where they live

I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania where the neighborhoods are filled with cookie cutter houses that all appear to be almost exactly identical. I grew up in a town where while religion is important to a large part of the community, it is not everything. I grew up in a town where in the winter the ground is covered in snow, and in the summer the AC is blasting. These are all things that are likely to act as barriers to understanding what life is like for those living in the Middle East.

My understanding of what I thought life in the Middle East must be like prior to taking this course was mostly taken from the way it is depicted in the media and film industry in the United States. On the news, when you see anything about Middle Eastern countries it is likely that it will be about war, poverty, or corruption. Many films that I have seen about the Middle East have been about war and violence. I think that this is the reason for the common misconception that every Middle Eastern country is poor and underdeveloped, which is clearly untrue. While I think that these depictions of the Middle East most definitely have led me to understand the privileges I have had my whole life, it also gave me a false sense of what life is like in other parts of the Middle East that are just as developed as the area that I grew up in.

From a geographical standpoint, the climate and  topography of most Middle Eastern countries is drastically different from where I live or anywhere that I have visited in the United States. In my area, any land that has not been built on is typically farm land, and there are certainly no deserts anywhere close to Newtown, PA. While the summers are hot, the highest that the temperature will reach is usually no more than 100°, and in the winter everyone knows that a heavy coat and gloves are a necessity. This was something that I have never really put into perspective when it comes to how this might affect me day to day, but clearly with such a different geographic setting, life in the Middle East is definitely going to be different from here.

In my opinion, life in the Middle East would be hardest for me to understand from a cultural standpoint. From what I know, religion in Middle Eastern countries is very important, and is often what causes a lot of conflict between countries. While I did grow up going to Catholic school, I have never found that it consumed my life or that religion ever caused any sort of controversy between the people around me. I think that the way people from my area who I would consider to be ‘super religious’ practice their religion would seem like nothing to many Middle Eastern people.

These are just a few of the things that I believe will act as barriers to my understanding throughout this course, and I recognize that life in a small suburban town in the United States has a long list of differences from life in the Middle East. Although these barriers are present, I look forward to searching for ways that life may also be somewhat similar in comparison to the Middle East throughout the semester.