I Know You, You're Just Like Me!

I Know You, You're Just Like Me!

From Chicken Soup for the Soul 20th Anniversary Edition

I Know You, You’re Just Like Me!

We look forward to the time when the Power of Love will replace the

Love of Power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace.

~William Ewart Gladstone

One of our closest friends is Stan Dale. Stan teaches a seminar on love and relationships called “Sex, Love and Intimacy.” Several years ago, in an effort to learn what the people in the Soviet Union were really like, he took 29 people to the Soviet Union for two weeks. When he wrote about his experiences in his newsletter, we were deeply touched by the following anecdote:

While walking through a park in the industrial city of Kharkov, I spotted an old Russian veteran of World War II. They are easily identified by the medals and ribbons they still proudly display on their shirts and jackets. This is not an act of egotism. It is their country’s way of honoring those who helped save Russia, even though 20 million Russians were killed by the Nazis. I went up to this old man sitting with his wife and said, “Druzhba i mir” (friendship and peace). The man looking at me as if in disbelief, took the button we had made for the trip and said “Friendship” in Russian and showed a map of the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. being held by loving hands, and said, “Americanski?” I replied, “Da, Americanski. Druzhba i mir.” He clasped both my hands as if we were long lost brothers and repeated again, “Americanski!” This time there was recognition and love in his statement.

For the next few minutes he and his wife spoke in Russian as if I understood every word, and I spoke English as if I knew he would understand. You know what? Neither of us understood a word, but we surely understood each other. We hugged, and laughed and cried, all the while saying, “Druzhba i mir, Americanski.” “I love you, I am proud to be in your country, we do not want war. I love you!

After about five minutes we said goodbye, and the seven of us in our little group walked on. About 15 minutes later, some considerable distance on, this same old veteran caught up with us. He came up to me, took off his Order of Lenin medal (probably his most prized possession) and pinned it to my jacket. He then kissed me on the lips and gave me one of the warmest, most loving hugs I have ever received. Then we both cried, looked into each other’s eyes for the longest time, and said, “Dossvedanya” (goodbye).

The above story is symbolic of our entire “Citizen Diplomacy” trip to the Soviet Union. Every day we met and touched hundreds of people in every possible and impossible setting. Neither the Russians nor we will ever be the same. There are now hundreds of schoolchildren from the three schools we visited who will not be quite so ready to think of Americans as people who want to “nuke” them. We danced, sang and played with children of every age, and then we hugged, kissed and shared presents. They gave us flowers, cakes, buttons, paintings, dolls, but most importantly, their hearts and open minds.

More than once we were invited to be members of wedding parties, and no biological family member could have been more warmly accepted, greeted and feted than we were. We hugged, kissed, danced and drank champagne, schnapps and vodka with the bride and groom, as well as Momma and Poppa and the rest of the family.

In Kursk, we were hosted by seven Russian families who volunteered to take us in for a wonderful evening of food, drink and conversation. Four hours later, none of us wanted to part. Our group now has a complete new family in Russia.

The following night “our family” was feted by us at our hotel. The band played until almost midnight, and guess what? Once again we ate, drank, talked, danced and cried when it came time to say goodbye. We danced every dance as if we were passionate lovers, which is exactly what we were.

I could go on forever about our experiences, and yet there would be no way to convey to you exactly how we felt. How would you feel when you arrived at your hotel in Moscow, if there were a telephone message waiting for you, written in Russian, from Mikhail Gorbachev’s office saying he regretted he could not meet with you that weekend because he would be out of town, but instead he had arranged for your entire group to meet for two hours in a roundtable discussion with about a half-dozen members of the Central Committee? We had an extremely frank discussion about everything, including sex.

How would you feel if more than a dozen old ladies, wearing babushkas, came down from the steps of their apartment buildings and hugged and kissed you? How would you feel when your guides, Tanya and Natasha, told you and the whole group that they had never seen anyone like you? And when we left, all 30 of us cried because we had fallen in love with these fabulous women, and they with us. Yes, how would you feel? Probably just like us.

Each of us had our own experience, of course, but the collective experience bears out one thing for certain: The only way we are ever going to ensure peace on this planet is to adopt the entire world as “our family.” We are going to have to hug them, and kiss them. And dance and play with them. And we are going to have to sit and talk and walk and cry with them. Because when we do, we’ll be able to see that, indeed, everyone is beautiful, and we all complement each other so beautifully, and we would all be poorer without each other. Then the saying, “I know you, you’re just like me!” will take on a mega-meaning of, “This is ‘my family,’ and I will stand by them no matter what!”

~Stan Dale

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