Mutual Understanding?

We often hear the words "mutual understanding," but do we really know what we mean when we say those words? According to, it is to: "n : sympathy of each person for the other." But what then is sympathy? It implies a relationship, an affinity, and in general a relationship with feelings towards another.

How does one achieve this "mutual understanding" then? Rotary strongly supports this principle through thousands of exchanges annually, both long-term and short-term in nature. Through these exchanges relationships are built, at least for a time. However, at the end of these exchanges everyone must go home, whether it is a GSE Team, a High School Exchange, or a year of study abroad. Relationships are built, but often fall by the wayside when we return to our homes. This is a real concern for Rotary and all organizations that sponsor exchanges.

How can Rotary Scholars and Fellows work then to preserve the relationships that are built over such a short period of time? What are some solutions?

Often the key is proper communication of some kind. We are blessed today with the internet, which allows quick, convenient, and cheap communications between individuals nearly anywhere on earth. This is of course granting that those involved have access to the internet in the first place. That aside, we have the tool and have had this tool for over a decade now. I recall sending my first emails in 1994 from my University account to a former classmate who was admitted to the Air Force Academy. This was when I was still in High School!

You can lead a horse to water, but how then do you make it drink? How can I get my mother to log on and write? Again, literacy aside, we must find ways to encourage those with these tools to use them, and those designing them must find ways to make it easier to use. Certainly, Digitarians are one example of a group seeking to make this happen. Free email has also worked wonders. Blogs too have been great for allowing my to communicate as a Peace Fellow with my sponsor Rotarians in Kentucky.

Still though, it is often difficult typing into a black hole. Nuance of voice and intonation are lost in writing (but were also hampered by old fashioned letters). These difficulties aside, how can one sift through the heaps of data, emails, etc. and build valid relationships?

I am completely comfortable working in the digital world, making friends online, and bringing that world into my real world and friends. Through the Rotary World Peace Fellow Association, I have built relationships with fellows at the six other centers. These are people whom I have never met in person before.
It can be done, but key to building relationships is having a shared interest, a venue, and a desire to continue the relationship. It is not possible to connect with everyone in the world, but it is possible to find the right people, at the right place, with the right energy to push forward with a working relationship that complements those of real life. It is through these endeavors that we can better achieve mutual understanding, or affinity, for one another through digital means.

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