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Adults should have show and tell, too

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Remember doing show and tell during elementary school? Kids would bring their favorite things in and present them to the class: pets, toys, and, in the case of my pal Megan, snowmobiles.

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Once I brought in my cousin, Maren, who was visiting that week from California and was (still is) one of the coolest people ever in the history of my memory.

Showcasing our prized possessions in front of an assortment of people might sound juvenile or immature to us now, but, as the extremely loud gospel truth blaring from elevators, sidewalks, shopping malls, classrooms, and office buildings tells us, we still participate in show and tell-ish conduct today with as much enthusiasm as we did as first graders.

Think about it for a minute: much of what we do/wear/say/listen to is, at its core, about getting somebody else to see it, and then being able to talk at them about it.

You may as well admit it: when you wear a new pair of shoes or take your latest T-shirt purchase off the hanger for the first time, you're just dying for someone to compliment you so you can say, "Thanks! I got them for five bucks on clearance," or even, "Well, you should like it, I bought it in Paris during fashion week."

Show, and tell. See?

But I paint an unflattering portrait of grown-up show and tell customs. Allow me to elaborate on the potential beauty of advanced versions of (what I like to call) display and inform.

During Hamline orientation, smacked down between campus tours and enough informational sessions to make anyone who actually listened to it all dizzy, we transfers got an interactive lesson in on-campus diversity.

Forty of us stood in a large circle. A leader called out statements, and we were instructed to step forward when they applied to us.

At first it was easy. The statements were "I'm an only child," or "I was born in another country." Quickly, however, it became slightly more complicated.

"I grew up without enough resources."

"I identify myself as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender."

"I am a Christian."

"I am prejudiced."

What were we showing? Ourselves. What were we telling other people in doing so? An extremely personal account of who we are, coupled with a willingness to trust people who put themselves forward -- literally -- too.

Why do we, as a human race, possess this universal fondness for show and tell? Some might argue that we're essentially self-obsessed creatures, who like to domineer the spotlight and talk about ourselves. Perhaps we're fond of its non-mutually exclusive aspect; unlike truth or dare, you don't have to settle for just one. Maybe we're overly materialistic and it gives us the opportunity to feed our hunger for lauding the assets of objects.

I propose another theory: that we benefit from both glimpsing someone else's inner narration and opening ourselves up enough to reveal a bit of our own.

Jake bused down to visit over the weekend and was greeted by me, positively giddy in tour guide mode. His Saturday-Sunday soundtrack consisted of incessant information about the pivotal importance of every landmark we passed in my new neighborhood: to your left is my favorite Pakistani coffee shop; up ahead you can scoff at the depressingly small cereal bowls Hamline pretends can sustain a ravenous college student; and if you crane your neck, you can get a glimpse of my preferred washer/dryer combo.

Lucky guy, right?

But, upon closer inspection, you'd see I just really wanted Jake to know what my life down here is like, and to feel a little closer than the miles that separate us because of that understanding.

I'd like to make a nation-wide motion (that's a pretty big movement, people) that we reinstate show and tell at an adult level. Many different experiences can come from it: liberation, release, understanding, empathy, connection between people who have something going on that they want someone else to notice.

You'll get from it what you give. Give your story, and get a little piece of humanity in return.

Thressa Johnson graduated from Detroit Lakes High School and attends Hamline University in St. Paul.

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