Every story gives us a chance to choose. Do we set up a “them and us” narrative, or will we do the work to offer another perspective?

Have you seen the whimsical ad Airbnb runs to encourage people to become hosts?

I can see why people might be hesitant to allow strangers into their space. We are conditioned to look at people who are not like us as either scary or exotic. Since childhood, most of us have been warned of “stranger danger”.

The ad features a family of shaggy “monsters” enjoying their vacation. It starts where many of us are when it comes to inviting strangers to stay in our homes–it’s a little scary. But then we see a delightful series of scenes: enjoying a beautiful view with a cuppa tea, a family hike, collecting shells, taking selfies, cooking, playing games…

These are simple things we enjoy with our own families.

The shaggy monsters clean up after themselves, straighten a picture on the wall, and leave a thank you note. As they close the door, we finally see them as they really are–a human family, just like us.

Kevin Morby’s song, Beautiful Strangers, provides a relaxed musical backdrop. Not a word is spoken. It’s a beautifully orchestrated story with an important message:

Strangers aren’t that strange. We have more in common than not.

The stories we tell can build bridges

Unfortunately, in our attempts to elicit emotion (or donations), we often emphasize our differences rather than our shared humanity. When we do this, we miss opportunities to present a realistic and nuanced view of the problems we solve. At worst, we reinforce stereotypes and even exploit the people we are called to serve.

Every story gives us a chance to choose. Do we set up a “them and us” narrative, or will we do the work to offer another perspective?


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