Global connections inspired a Minnesota small business owner to write a book

Gail Shore, who went from reservations agent to head of sales and communications at Northwest Airlines, left corporate life 33 years ago to start her own communications practice.

In the end, she also started a small non-profit organization that makes the world a little better.

She traveled extensively during her years in the Northwest. Her business, coast-to-coast communications, was successful enough that she was able to go on multi-week trips to Cuba, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal, China, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Ghana, Mali, Syria, Morocco, Tanzania and dozens of other countries.

She wrote a book about what she learned, “Opening My Cultural Lens,” which was published in the fall.

Her experiences, usually with a guide, have mostly been safe, intriguing, encouraging and transformative over the years of witnessing so much. Shore writes with insight, compassion, humor and the brevity of his several dozen investigations.

“Happiness comes from family, faith and community,” Shore writes in her book, which includes stunning photographs. “Many people living on the most basic, modest means don’t need all the things we think make us happy.”

Shore writes about the times she was followed by state security. Sometimes she felt uncomfortable, including 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 mostly overcame any trepidation.

Shore also found that most people she encountered, whether religious or not, followed the golden rule: Do unto others as you would want to be done unto you.

“And most importantly, although we all look, dress, speak or pray differently, people everywhere are more alike than we are different,” she concludes in her key insights. “Understanding this is the path to compassion and empathy.”

Shore also turned her journey into a time-tested learning 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 presents other cultures through award-winning videos and insightful learning guides. Cultural Jambalaya is a volunteer-run non-profit organization with an annual budget of less than $30,000 that has created several educational video series “Windows & Mirrors”.

Mike Ciresi, a business litigator and philanthropist, has been a Shore client for 30 years and supports Cultural Jambalaya.

“She opened herself up to learning about cultures and people,” Ciresi said. “She understands how people are divided. If we had more people like her, we would reduce the tribalism we see in the world. I admire the hell out of her.”

One of my favorite chapters in Shore’s book is her visit to Russia in the early 1990s. It includes several former KGB agents who lost their jobs due to government downsizing at the time.

Agents helped an American businesswoman, a friend of Shore’s, recover money she lost to a Moscow con artist. And the former agents, though nervous about their future, treated Shore and other guests to vodka and caviar at a party at one of their homes.

Shore has other encouraging stories of locals who have invited her to humble homes around the world to share what they have. It peppers historical information with humanity.

Mary Kaeding, marketing manager at 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 any eventuality,” Kaeding said of Shore’s work. “It is both 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 not like us.”

Shore, 75, who self-funded the book, admits she had the resources and time to travel, do nonprofits and write — in part because she was single and lived modestly.

She also considers herself blessed for her travels, clients and network of friends and supporters who have helped her along the way.

She scaled back her work a bit during these COVID-slow years, allowing her to synthesize years of diaries, photos, notes, and memories into a book, her “legacy.”

Shore is also a pragmatic optimist who acknowledges global issues, usually driven by autocrats and warmongers. Not their people. Most people want to get along.

“I hope [Opening My Cultural Lens] it will also open other people’s cultural lenses,” Shore said. “No matter who we are or where we live, we want the same things in life. We agree on many issues. We are more alike than we are different.”

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