"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses appreciating our differences.
By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea
When someone invites me along to an event or function to speak about IMPACT and the work we do to live our vision of Improving Lives, I always jump at the opportunity. Last Saturday night, the Cessna 182 Association of Australia members arranged a ‘fly in’ to Bundaberg, and they invited me to attend their dinner as guest speaker and, on behalf of IMPACT, accept funds raised on the night. With a limited understanding of what a ‘fly in’ was and armed with a strong belief that people willing to travel in a light aircraft on a regular basis were thrill seeking daredevils (and therefore would have nothing in common with me), I was not sure what to expect.
Now, entering a room filled with people you don’t know is one thing. Entering a room filled with people you don’t know and believing you have nothing in common with them can leave you filled with next level anxiety.
The people in that room all came from different backgrounds, life experiences and beliefs, however they had a shared a common interest in flying that created a reason for them to come together. They had made the trek from different places throughout Australia to attend the event – Biloela, Mackay, Tasmania, Canberra, rural Victoria, Sydney and Adelaide – travelling to Bundaberg and relishing the opportunity to spend five jam packed days together. The Cessna members schedule two ‘fly ins’ each year, making the most of their time by spending it exploring and getting to know the community by visiting local attractions. They seemed kind and generous, were great fun and made me feel welcome and part of their group.
Hang on - I wasn’t a pilot and didn’t share their enthusiasm for flying (and still don’t understand why you would get into one of those planes voluntarily) yet I felt instantly part of the group.
What was going on? Why did I feel so connected?
And then it came to me.
The thing that created the vibe within the room that was bigger than any conversation about flying. The vibe was the people – these passionate, remarkable people living life without fear, leaning into their passion, sharing experiences, and taking a genuine interest in others and a world outside of flying.
As humans, we are usually attracted to people like us, people with things in common who share similar interests, goals, hobbies, experiences, thresholds for adventure. Saturday night reminded me that mixing with people who are different to us removes the filters that we place on the world. It is a powerful, enriching experience that encourages us to explore what else is possible outside of our own experience. It breaks down barriers and pushes us to step outside of our comfort zone, providing an amazing opportunity for us to learn and grow.
What an absolute joy it was to be part of that ‘fly in’ experience. I may not have walked away with a goal of becoming a pilot any time soon, yet I did walk away appreciating the value of difference, and the power of feeling included.