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We All Live in Bubbles

“So where are you all from?” said the guide as we embarked on a tour of Manchester recently.

I was there with our friend Robin, over from the US, and keen to learn more about Manchester’s history.

“America” said Robin.

“I’m from America too” said another lady. I’ll call her Maria.

Off we went, learning about the growth of Manchester as a city on the back of the cotton trade, the terrible suffering that came with over-rapid urban growth, and the problems of housing, homelessness and street children that plague cities the world over to this day.

“Where in America? I asked Maria, making small talk during a lull.


Aha! I’ve been to Phoenix. Let’s talk about Phoenix.

“How long have you lived there?”

“Twenty years”

“Where were you before that?”


Woah. Now the conversation had taken a new turn. Maria, it transpired, left Cuba in 1995 along with her parents and siblings, as part of a mass migration. They then spent six months in the Guantanamo Bay detention centre before gaining entry to the US.

But she looked so normal!

Four questions (count ‘em) was all it took to learn this about Maria. 

She was not needy. She was not complaining about anything. She wasn’t looking for help in any way. But she had a story, and in hearing that story I learned a few things. My world expanded a bit.

I was living in America in 1995. I have no recollection of Cuban migration at that time. Nor had Robin, and she has lived in America most of her life. But to Maria it was a life-defining event.

We all live in bubbles to different extents. 

My bubble expanded through hearing Maria’s story.

But everybody has a story. And it’s in listening to them that we show how we value them.

Time well spent then, on several levels.