Have you ever stopped to think if our culture or our surroundings influence our thoughts, our activities and our lives in general? Although we may have a choice in the decision on which path to take in our lives, there still seems to be the cultural tug amongst us that truly influences us and shapes us into the people we are today.

Perhaps it’s better to understand with this Dog Story. We have 3 dogs in our home and I am always amazed at the lessons that I learn from their interactions. When our labradoodle, Yoder was brought into our home we already had two daschunds (weiners) that were 3 years older than him. As you can imagine Yoder being a puppy was not only lost and confused but was soon influenced by the two weiners that were now his new siblings. Yoder thought he himself was a weiner and soon started adopting their practice of sniffing, smelling and yapping. It was odd to see Yoder sniffing and smelling since he is more of a sight dog, but interesting to note how his culture was influencing his choices. The yapping part was the most comical because he tried to yap at the high pitch of the weiners and truly never succeeded.

Soon Yoder figured out that he would rather fetch than sniff and settled for his deeper bark. He soon discovered his poodle-like mannerisms and was much happier. Does this story resonate with you? All too often we try to fit into a situation or environment because of the strong influences and find ourselves in very awkward positions as Yoder did.

We are all influenced and I am no exception. When I look at the various cultures that have woven their threads into my fiber I am charmed at the shaping that has resulted. My background is one of truly being happy and relaxed. Perhaps that’s why I live in the Florida Keys and have maintained that aspect of my culture from South Africa. All too often the people around me think I am too happy and need to get a reality check. Quite frankly, I would rather keep this part of my culture and infuse it with the ones I have learned from the American culture.

The Afrikaner culture shaped me with the gift of working hard, and knowing that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to do. Most importantly my culture was infused with respecting others as well. The American culture added something that was truly attractive which was the sense of freedom and fighting for it. All in all, I have found a wonderful and healthy balance in my cultures; respect and freedom. Just as Yoder who adapted to the culture he was brought into and then combined his with that of his new siblings, we can all do the same.

Take a look at all the diverse cultures that exist around you. Consider incorporating those that can balance the cultures you possess and watch what can flourish from such combination. We are indeed influenced by the culture that surrounds us and have the ultimate choice and freedom to incorporate it into our lives.

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