The Gift of Diversity
In some indigenous tribes the word for “stranger” is the same as the word for “enemy”. This derives from times when resources were scarce and the arrival of a non-community member meant less for all. Potentially, the stranger could represent a future danger if he/she were an advance scout of another tribe seeking more territory. Tribe meant safety.
We may still feel a sense of uneasiness when encountering “others” who do not look, sound, act, or feel like our family or community. This discomfort arises because we do not know what to expect and the responses we will elicit from those who do not share our backgrounds and identities.
When others do not share our gender, race, cultural background, food preferences, musical or sports tastes, we are sometimes at a loss to find common ground to meet.
I have traveled to other countries and discovered their foods are strange, the colors and shapes of clothing are odd. Even if they speak English, it sounds different. The air smells unusual, and I feel confused until I settle in. After a while, I adapt and discover the beauty in the unusual and distinctive culture I see and feel around me. The strange art of the aborigines of Australia appealed to me in its starkness after I became accustomed to seeing it. The bright colors and designs of African fabrics delighted me after the initial bright impact. The flavors of Egyptian food intrigued me with the smell and taste after the first bite or two. Strangeness takes us out of our comfort zone in the beginning, but we can readily absorb and find common ground with others.
Diversity may be a challenge to our daily senses and our traditional ways of thinking, but it is a positive and natural way to open to a greater perspective of global life.
Consider this: would you eat the same food, dress in the same clothes, read the same book, listen to the same music, and watch the same movie day after day? Life would become bland and meaningless. Without diversity, we are reinforcing our own stereotypes, viewpoints, lifestyle, and outlook. When we open to other cultures, racial groups, sexual identity perspectives, or outside opinions, we may find exciting vistas of opportunities and adventures we had not previously considered.
As a personal example, I remember the first time an Asian friend of mine introduced me to sushi. Oh Yuk, raw fish! I was certain this was a terrible idea. He finally convinced me to ‘just taste it.’ Of course, I tried it and found it delicious. The same thing happened with guacamole. Yew, green stuff.
Now, it’s wow, bring it on!
Discussing cultural and spiritual perspectives with people from different backgrounds and countries with an open mind gives you broader concepts of the world and how we live. One way is not right for all. We may think we have all the answers, but my answers are not your answers. Think of what music would be today if the general white culture had not embraced the Caribbean and African rhythms of blues, jazz, and reggae.
I see this when I visit the ancestors in my healing journeys. Sometimes, our ancestors made choices in their lives because of the social and cultural requirements of the times. Arranged marriages without the consent of either party were common and often caused great pain in their lifetimes and subsequent generations. Forced removal from home due to disasters, slavery, invasions, plagues, or religious differences broke family ties and spirits. Feeling like an outsider and not fitting in with the world produced issues of abandonment, isolation, and rejection.
These events left scars that reverberate in their heirs today.
It is common for people to congregate with others of like background. Cities often have Latino, Oriental, Scandinavian, and Italian communities, and of course, African American neighborhoods. Sometimes this is by choice, sometimes by discrimination and prejudice. Often these can be economically depressed neighborhoods. Visiting these areas for public entertainment occasions, social events, and gatherings is a good way to expand your worldview and incorporate diversity in your life.
Then we are exposed to the beauty and richness they have to offer.
Get to know others who are different in enjoyable, safe settings to exchange ideas, views, and life stories. If you are an employer, commit to expand diversity in the workplace to incorporate divergent services, attitudes, and products in your market. No place in the world is isolated now. The more we embrace each other, the more common ground we will find to love and enjoy the beauty found in the hearts of all. COVID-19 taught us we all share the same vulnerabilities. If we work and live together responsibly, we can overcome tragedy and move on.
Each of us seek the same goals: health, peace, prosperity, right livelihood, loving relationships, and a safe place in the world for ourselves and our families. Humans all share the same ancestors. We simply need to remember that we are not so different after all.