I spent the end of the year in Mexico. Experiencing different cultures is a very important part of everyone’s development. I’ve lived in England, visited China, France, Germany and Scotland, which means that of the 196 countries in the world I’ve been to 7 and have 189 on the list.

When I’m in Mexico I’m in a little town that is in the heart of the country, so I’m not dealing with the tourist trap mentality, but the actual reality of how people live. It’s an interesting experience because the culture is so very different. It’s opposite to the culture here: very poor, very family oriented and very happy. Late at night in the town square there will be families enjoying the nice night air, there will be little kids, as young as 2 years old, just running around.

Parents are not helicoptering their children; they run throughout the streets, at all times of the day. It’s a wonderfully joyous lifestyle, though it can be frustrating at times because things do not work as they do here. For example, the gym I go to down there is closed on Sunday, and of course because it’s a holiday time there are additional feast days which cause random closing times.

Living down there more I imagine I would get used to the schedule and understand how things work better. Because everything does work well, it just works different to what I’m used to.

When I landed at LAX all I wanted to do was hit the hot tub at the Loews Hotel, but it was 1 a.m. so I had to wait four and a half hours. Knowing that the gym was going to be open is one of the benefits of living in the United States. We have a great deal of certainty in our life here

As I listened to the presidential candidates pontificate on the Syrian refugee crisis, and their proposals to close our borders to Muslims, I am appalled at the lack of humanity they exhibit.

Having a home that is safe is a primary human need. We need to protect our country, but we also are founded on the precept that those who are not safe, those who don’t have a home, can find one here.

In Santa Monica we probably have immigrants from most of the 196 countries in the world. They’re all around us. They own dry cleaners, and restaurants like Z Garden, and Tandoor Oven. We are a richer and more diverse community as a result of them.

Xenophobia is the fear of other peoples. It used to be normal when we lived in caves and fought for resources, but frankly we’ve not had to do that for thousands of years and we need to move past it. That’s not to say that we should ignore the security background checks for terrorists.

I do believe that we need to continue with the security measures that are in place. After all, immigrants go through multiple database reviews from the FBI, NSA, CIA, Homeland Security and probably a few others that no knows about.

But the vast majority of refugees who want to come here, just want a better life. They want to live in a safe society that allows them to set up a business, get married, have children and be happy. We need to recognize that, and help make it a reality.

We can screen the refugees, and yes there will likely be a small number that squeak through, and as sad as that is, I think that we need to do all we can to help those who just want a better life.

Should everyone be able to go the gym at 5:30 a.m.?