Cultural Exchange Can Happen Anywhere

The spontaneity of youth is contagious. Each year Legacy staff are reminded as we work with our many youth and young adult programs what it is like to have youth on our side again for a few weeks. The air permeates with laughter, nonsensical songs, and dance parties at the drop of a dime. We do very serious work and have a lot of very serious meetings however, we also make time to breath, youth forces you to do so. For it is in these random moments that we witness the true beauty of cultural exchange.

Sharing the LOVE at the Global Youth Village

One day while dining with a few of the Emerging Young Leaders over Thai food, a rather humorous discussion about the idiom “shut up” occurred. “Why do Americans say shut up as a way of telling someone to be quiet? That doesn’t make sense. Why do you shut your mouth up but shut down a computer?” One leader explained maybe because when you close your mouth like this it’s up.” As he pointed to the way in which the bottom half of his jaw moved in an upward fashion. The group erupted in laughter as we all mimicked the movement.

If you had any time to check out our posts on social media this month, it’s plain to see the sharing of experiences, customs, food, language, and culture that happens. Not just among the cohort but with everyone that they interact with during their time here. No display this year was more popular than the spontaneous dance circle at the official Awards ceremony at the U.S. Department of State for the Emerging Young Leaders Award. Rallied on by students from Roosevelt Senior High School in DC, various youth groups convened in the foyer of the auditorium in a circle taking turns dancing in the center to a beat created by clapping hands and the melodic chants of “no music.”

The circle really took off once Hanna Tams, a 2017 Emerging Young Leader removed his shoes. It doesn’t take much for Hanna to break into dance. In his home of Jerusalem, the twenty-two year old dancer founded the Douban Dance Company in 2012 at the age of sixteen. Any chance he has to share his mission of art for social change with anyone he does. Aiming his efforts at Palestinian youth who are at a significantly higher risk of destructive behaviors than their peers in Israel and the West Bank. It’s no wonder he wouldn’t hesitate to join a group of high school students in an impromptu party still clad in his suit.

Emerging Young Leader Award winner Hanna Tams from Jerusalem.

But this is what it’s all about, the moments that are not planned where we simply shed our inhibitions, preconceived notions, and biases and just enjoy each other as fellow humans.. Young people remind us to be much more than spontaneous they shock us back into being human.