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I have a personal definition of diversity: the concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique and emphasizes the importance of recognizing our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs or other ideologies. It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive and nurturing environment.
It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.
On speaking about diversity and different ethnic groups, I would like to share a couple of stories involving two of my closest and dearest friends from different ethnic backgrounds.
One of the stories goes as follows. My friend works at LINC which is made up of a uniquely diverse staff, and had taken a dish to a work gathering. He was a bit worried if everyone would like his lasagna recipe because it wasn't a traditional lasagna recipe. One of his coworkers had taken a bite and said, "You put your foot in it Jay." He had never heard that phrase, and seeing as he was already nervous about his dish, he didn't really know whether it was a compliment or a critique.
Later his co-workers went on to tell him that the phrase was intended as a compliment, one often used to tell your mother or granny that their food tastes great! They all had a good laugh and joked with him on how he should compliment his wife's cooking for dinner that night. He was relieved that the lasagna was a hit, and thought, “Cool, I learned a new phrase.”
A couple of weeks later, Jay was participating in the LINC Academy for Social Transformation. During the third day’s discussion of cultural impact on power dynamics, he shared his experience learning this new phrase stating proudly, "Yeah, I recently learned what it means to ‘stick your foot in it!’” Well, he had clearly misused this phrase and served to thoroughly confuse everyone. So he explained his exposure to a new cultural behavior during the staff potluck and what he thought it meant. By now he was also really confused, until everyone realized what he had meant to say was, "You put your foot in it." This goes to show that there is much to be learned about cultural diversity from seemingly small interactions with the people around you.
Another dear friend of mine was enjoying an evening eating out. As her eyes glanced around the establishment she noticed 10 -12 men entering, all similarly dressed in blues jeans, tight little jackets and Fedora hats. Right away she assumed they were members of a band being dressed in the latest fashion and some sporting spiked hairstyles. But before she left she made her way over to their tables to satisfy her curiosity. She asked, “What is the name of your band?” One of the men answered, “We’re not a band, these are some of the members of our church. To this my friend replied, “Well now, you look like, a band of angels!”
In a previous article I described my learning that things aren’t always what they seem and you shouldn’t judge a book by looking at the cover. This is still so true. In these two stories the mistakes or wrong assumptions led to a good laugh, yet there are times when this is not the case. As we have witnessed recently, ignorance or prejudice can lead to violence and hurt whether intentional or not. I would like to give a tribute to Trayvon Martin’s family on the loss of their son. I pray for a peaceful healing on the tragedy of losing Trayvon and a just resolution for the accuser in his death.
This is God’s earth, and he put us all here to prosper, to love, live, learn and grow into a peaceful nation. Have we forgotten how to love and respect one another?
My hope is that one day, this world will live love and respect one another, to do and act as we were put here on this earth for: to do God’s will and goodwill to all mankind.
I have lived in Grand Rapids all my life and am very involved with my community. I hope to give back and hope in any way I can.
Reports on: Community involvement and changes happening within the community. I hope to make a contribution to my community by telling these stories.
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