Gail Shore, who rose from reservation agent to director of sales and communications for Northwest Airlines, left corporate life to start her own communications practice 33 years ago.
Eventually, I also started a small non-profit organization that makes the world a little better.
She traveled extensively during her northwest years. Her business, Shore to Shore Communications, was successful enough that she was able to take weeks of expeditions to Cuba, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal, China, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Ghana, Mali, Syria, Morocco, Tanzania and dozens of other countries.
I wrote a book about my learning, Opening the Lens of My Culture, which came out in the fall.
Her experiences, usually with a guide, have been safe, interesting, encouraging and transformative over years of watching so much. Shore writes with insight, compassion, humor, and brevity for dozens of explorations.
“Happiness comes from family, faith and community,” Shore writes in her book of stunning images. “Many people who live in the simplest and most modest means do not need all the things we think make us happy.”
Shore writes about the times she was tricked by government security. I felt uncomfortable at times, including in police states like North Korea, Syria and Iran.
“I like to go to a lot of places that most people don’t want to go,” she said. Curiosity and good planning often overcome any fear.
Shore also found that most people she interviewed, religious or not, followed the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like them to treat you.
“More importantly, while we may all look, dress, speak, or pray differently, people everywhere are more alike than we are different,” she concludes in her basic learning. “Understanding this is the path to compassion and empathy.”
Shore has also turned her travel into a time-tested educational curriculum that has benefited thousands of school children, their parents and others over the years.
Since 2005, she has been the unpaid Executive Director of Cultural Jambalaya, a small non-profit organization that introduces other cultures through award-winning videos and insightful study guides. Cultural Jambalaya is a volunteer-led non-profit organization with an annual budget of less than $30,000 that has created several “Windows & Mirrors” educational video series.
Mike Serici, a commercial attorney and philanthropist, has been a client of Shore for 30 years and a supporter of Cultural Jambalaya.
“She opened herself up to learn about cultures and people,” Serici said. “She understands how people divide themselves. If we had more people like her, we would have less tribalism that we see in the world. I admire her.”
One of my favorite chapters in Shore’s book is her visit to Russia in the early 1990s. It includes two former KGB agents who were losing their jobs due to government downsizing at the time.
The agents help an American businessman, a friend of Shore’s, recover money she lost to a Moscow conman. And though the former clients worried about their future, they treated Shor and the other guests to vodka and caviar at a party at one of their homes.
Shore has other encouraging tales of locals inviting them into humble homes around the world to share what they have. It mixes historical information with humanity.
Mary Kaeding, director of marketing for Kraus-Anderson Construction, has used Shore as a publicist and consultant since 1997. She and the company also support Cultural Jambalaya.
“Gail Shore is meticulous and prepared for all eventualities,” said Kading of Shore’s work. “It is so wonderful and inspiring that she has documented her travels and photographs in this book.
“What a difference it can make when we connect with people who are just not like us.”
Shore, 75, who self-financed the book, acknowledges that she had the resources and time to travel, the nonprofit and write—in part because she was single and lived modestly.
She also considers herself fortunate to have had her travels, clients and network of friends and supporters who helped her throughout the journey.
She pared down some of her work during these coronavirus-slowed years, enabling her to piece together years of journals, photos, notes, and memories into the book, “Heirloom Piece.”
Shore is also a pragmatic optimist who recognizes global issues, usually raised by autocrats and warmongers. Not their people. Most people want harmony.
“Amal [Opening My Cultural Lens] It will also open up the cultural lenses of others,” Shore said. No matter who we are and where we live, we want the same things in life. We agree on many issues. We are more alike than we are different.”