Are Mormons America's Leading Export of Global Pedestrians?

When I muse about the sort of Americans who might one day write in to share first-hand insights on this Global Pedestrian blog of mine, I tend to think of Peace Corps volunteers or backpackers with Eurail passes or even members of the U.S. military. A group I didn't consider, until reading the latest New York Times Modern Love column, is Mormons.

Holly Welker writes about "strolling through a park in Taichung, Taiwan, hand in hand with my missionary companion at the time, Sister Shi. Although she was Chinese and I American, we both were 22-year-old women serving as missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

Welker then recounts a small Global Pedestrian moment:

"Before long, we came upon a teenage girl and boy who, like us, were conservatively dressed and holding hands.

“'Will you look at that?' Sister Shi said in Mandarin, turning slightly to watch them walk away. 'That’s disgusting.'

"I was a year into my 18-month mission and could talk comfortably in Mandarin. 'Why?' I countered. 'They’re just doing what we’re doing.'

"'But anyone can look at us and see there’s nothing going on,' she said. 'If you look at them, you know something is definitely going on.'

"The teenagers actually struck me as utterly innocent."

This, as I said, is a small moment. It has no implications for official U.S. policy on hand-holding. Because there is no such thing (I hope). Rather, it's just a little reminder that American standards of public intimacy are not everyone's standards of public intimacy. It's a healthy reminder that, in all things, we should assume that someone out there -- maybe someone in a position to really mess things up for us -- probably sees "utterly innocent" U.S. actions and spits out the words "That's disgusting."

Welker's piece for Modern Love, which goes on to cover other territory, strikes me as the sort of thing that may have offended some people. This blog isn't really the place to get into that. But if you are a missionary or any other sort of global pedestrian, I'd be delighted if you would use the comments section below to share any moments of insight you've been lucky to experience while walking the world.

Related Articles

How exercise helps your gut bacteria

Gut bacteria play an important role in how you feel and think and how well your body fights off disease. New research shows that exercise can give your gut bacteria a boost.

National Institutes of Health
Surprising Science
  • Two studies from the University of Illinois show that gut bacteria can be changed by exercise alone.
  • Our understanding of how gut bacteria impacts our overall health is an emerging field, and this research sheds light on the many different ways exercise affects your body.
  • Exercising to improve your gut bacteria will prevent diseases and encourage brain health.
Keep reading Show less

Giving octopuses ecstasy reveals surprising link to humans

A groundbreaking new study shows that octopuses seemed to exhibit uncharacteristically social behavior when given MDMA, the psychedelic drug commonly known as ecstasy.

Image: damn_unique via Flickr
Surprising Science
  • Octopuses, like humans, have genes that seem to code for serotonin transporters.
  • Scientists gave MDMA to octopuses to see whether those genes translated into a binding site for serotonin, which regulates emotions and behavior in humans
  • Octopuses, which are typically asocial creatures, seem to get friendlier while on MDMA, suggesting humans have more in common with the strange invertebrates than previously thought
Keep reading Show less

Why drawing isn’t just an art

There's a growing understanding that drawing is much more than an art form: it's a powerful tool for learning.

(GoaShape via Unsplash)
Mind & Brain
  • We often think of drawing as something that takes innate talent, but this kind of thinking stems from our misclassification of drawing as, primarily, an art form rather than a tool for learning.
  • Researchers, teachers, and artists are starting to see how drawing can positively impact a wide variety of skills and disciplines.
  • Drawing is not an innate gift; rather, it can be taught and developed. Doing so helps people to perceive the world more accurately, remember facts better, and understand their world from a new perspective.
Keep reading Show less