Most Americans and music lovers worldwide acknowledge Elvis Presley as “The King” of rock and roll. But some people have no idea who Elvis Presley is or what it means to be “The King” to millions of loyal fans.
This is what I learned from Cindy, the foreign exchange student from China that I hung out with for a few weeks.
I was taking a class on multi-cultural competency as part of the process towards my master’s degree in counseling. Our instructor, Vince Noble asked for volunteers to escort foreign exchange students and ease their transition into the USA. He may have even offered extra credit, I can’t remember. But I volunteered and was paired up with Cindy from China.
One day, Cindy and I went an art show at Cal State Long Beach. There were many paintings and several rooms filled with original art pieces created by students. We came upon a portrait of Elvis Presley. I admired the creativity of the piece. Cindy pointed at it and asked, “who is that?”
I was stunned. It was as if my life was flashing before me. I could not imagine how to describe who Elvis was. He is so many things to so many people and I couldn’t imagine what the world, or at least my world, would be like without him.
I managed to mumble out some answer about how Elvis was a rock legend and I hummed a few bars of Blue Suede Shoes and Jailhouse Rock to see if it would ring a bell.
I was speechless.
I had been slapped aside the head once again and reminded that just because I have an experience or a social construct built up around a certain object or person, doesn’t mean everyone else does. Have you ever found yourself in a situation like this, assuming the person you’re talking to knows something when really they don’t; assuming that everyone knows all the same things you do?