Our universe is characterized by diversity, with galaxies of stars and planets, and no two alike. An orchestra is made up of an assortment of instruments, not just violins. Our bodies are made up of multiple organs: each preforming unique functions, and all working together to create a healthy whole. We humans are meant to be an array of different sexes, races, ethnic groups, and cultures so that we, too, can work together and be a healthy whole.
Unless we’re Native American, we are immigrants, and we brought our assortment of cultural gifts to the USA. From India comes Chef Padma Lakshmi, who specializes in cuisine from immigrant and indigenous people. In the June 7 Parade Magazine, she is featured in an article titled “Taste the Nation.” Her work with immigrants, women’s rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union inspired her to create a cookbook and a television show, featuring food from across our country that reflects different cultures and tells ethnic stories. She reminds us that there’s no such thing as an “all-American” food unless it is Native American. We can’t take credit for the ingredients for apple pie because the apples, cinnamon, milled flour, and butter all came from other countries. Hot dogs, another American favorite, came from Germany. When Padma goes to her mother’s house she eats with her fingers, India-style. Padma is an example of someone celebrating cultural diversity by bringing people together around food and providing a platform for their personal stories that highlight our common bond.
This next example comes from my husband’s career in aviation, and it shows the importance of male/female cooperation. On April 28, 1988, Aloha flight 243 (a Boeing 737) lost a large part off the top of the aircraft while in flight. In the cockpit were Captain Robert Schornstheimer and 1st Officer Madeline Tompkins, who immediately went into crisis management. This was such a unique emergency that they could not navigate it using only the Flight Operations Manual. Together they problem-solved their way to a successful landing, with only one death. As their crisis management was studied, it became evident that their success lay in using both the masculine and feminine perspectives while decision-making. Since that event, an intense and ongoing study has revealed that the best cockpit team is both male and female – especially when handling emergencies. Same-sex combinations do not work as well. In today’s flights, whenever possible, you will find both sexes in the cockpit. Diversity is our strength when we work together.
My husband and I have had opportunities for travel that have opened our hearts to other parts of the world and given us lessons in cultural diversity that enriched our lives. But travel isn’t necessary for cultural experiences; it can happen right here if we’re willing to stretch ourselves out of the familiar. We can travel through our TV to almost any country in the world, and discover how important all people’s stories are to the health of our human race. Trying international cuisine is fun, as is listening to music with ethnic roots. Traditional folk tales from around the world have been part of many of our childhoods, such as Grimm’s Fairy Tales from Germany. Museums are dedicated to foster cultural experiences but, if going in person isn’t possible, we can go online and find numerous ethnic galleries to view. We can also visit a church we don’t normally attend to learn about different religions. Seeing the world through the eyes of another culture is life-changing, and reveals that we are more alike than different.
Recently a letter from our Friend Delores Penn was sent to everybody on the FAD e-mail list. She wrote, “Presently our country is going through some difficult times. We can say to ourselves that it doesn’t have anything to do with me and my beliefs, or we can stop, listen, and learn.” This is definitely the time to stop, listen, and learn! It might be hard and uncomfortable getting started, but it’s time to remember that our worth is about who we are. It’s time to practice respect for our differences and to discover more of our commonalities.
Anyone who has had cancer knows that we are not our disease, and we know, too, how cancer changes our body. But inside, independent of how we look, we all have the same need for safety, security, loving relationships, and a chance to follow our dreams. With respect to our intrinsic value, Desmond Tutu writes, “We are all of equal worth, born equal in dignity and born free, and for this reason deserving of respect whatever our external circumstances.”
The essence of our physical world is tremendous diversity, and we as humans can reflect that in interdependence, compassion, cooperation, sharing, and caring. We need to remember what Desmond Blackburn wrote in the July 14 Press Journal: “Let’s celebrate our differences, but more importantly let’s form a union around our commonalities.” There is room for every point of view, culture, race, and language. Our differences aren’t meant for separation, but represent the beauty found in our unity. Change begins within each one of us when we “stop, listen, and learn.” Let’s celebrate our diversity with unity, equality, and cooperation in a way that complements each other, and in the process we will discover how much we are alike.
L. R. Knost writes, “Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go, love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.”
Until Next time – Sylvia