Familiarity and Concern

Yesterday when I was visiting the Houston Holocaust Museum, I saw the map above.

The first thing that struck me about this map is that it has Rovno on it. Rovno is where my grandfather was born. It’s not always on maps of central Europe, just as it hasn’t always been on the map for me until I began to take a greater interest in his story.

The other thing that comes to mind whenever I visit Holocaust Museums now is that, looking at the maps, I now know how to correctly pronounce the names of many of the places that I wouldn’t have dared to attempt pronouncing just a few years ago.

Spending time living in Poland and getting acquainted with these places cultivated in me a familiarity with and concern for them. They became “on the map” for me.

When I reflect on the reasons why we can be so unaffected or uninterested in what’s happening now in such places as China, Afghanistan, and Haiti, I think it is because we do not yet have the familiarity that generates concern.

Once we become acquainted, such as by visiting a place or by meeting a new friend from a different place, then we expand our circle of concern.

I am convinced that a first step to having concern for the Uyghurs facing persecution and genocide is learning to pronounce “Xinjiang” and “Xi Jinping.

The most basic familiarity heightens concern.

As we cannot love what we do not know, so too we cannot have concern about that with which we are unfamiliar.

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