Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Children are the best examples of diversity

Everyone, it seems, is concerned about diversity these days.
No minority actors are nominated for a prestigious award and everyone is up in arms. And they are probably right to be concerned.
However, diversity goes much deeper than skin color. We are all different under the skin and we are all the same. There is much which makes us unique and much which makes us the same. We know this but does it affect our thinking?
When I was an adolescent, mom tried to explain to me that it is not just OK to be different but being different is tremendous.
I didn't get the point. I wanted to be just like everyone else in my class and the thoughts of any of us being different -- horrors!
By the time I went to college I was thinking for myself and resisted the pressure to fit into the mold of my major course of study. The truth is, I was too busy finding out who I was and delighted when I discovered something new that I could do.
Today, I think my generation's brains must be tired. We want to pigeon hole people. That's an interesting term that comes from the old days when pieces of paper or envelopes were sorted into little boxes set in a wooden case. Many times mail was sorted that way. The act of sorting into those boxes came to be known as "pigeon holing."
Too many times we want to sort people and classify them instead of celebrating what makes them unique.
There are racists but there are also times when many of us broad minded, thinking people see a group of blacks (Negros? African-Americans? In my lifetime, that race has been known by various names of their own choosing) and we think, "I better get away from these people. I don't know what trouble they might be up to."
That happened to me last week in a McDonald's in Collinsville, Illinois. Then, as soon as the thought came into my mind, I was embarrassed by it. I didn't know those people. If they had been white, I would have probably smiled and thought, "They are having a good time. How nice!"
It's not just races. Think in terms of politics.
What do you think about Republicans? That they are hard-working and rich? Maybe you think of Watergate and other terms come to mind.
What comes to mind when you think about Democrats? That they are socialists? That they are blue collar middle class people? That they want to take your tax money and give it to people who don't want to work for a living or maybe you think in more positive terms, that the Democrats want to help people who cannot help themselves.
Now, think about your friends, people you respect. Are they all Democrats or are they all Republicans?
I just bet you have friends who do not fit your generalizations of Democrats or Republicans.
Children are the best illustrations of diversity.
It's amazing that adults often try to classify children in terms of other adults in the family.
"You're just like your father!" But the little boy isn't.
"You're just like your mother!" Want to bet?
One of the good things about our mobile society is that children are no longer judged by their families.
It used to be said, "Well, what do you expect? He's a Smith (or Jones of Phillips.)"
I am certainly not a perfect dad but one of the things my wife and I did right was to help our children discover who they were as individuals.
Oh, sure, we had our struggles over school. "You will do your homework!" Over friends. "Who are you going to be with? When will you be home? No, that is too late on a school night. Be home by …."
We took the kids to Sunday School and Church.
Now, we have children who have followed completely different paths but they are productive and appreciated members of society. They have their own families, and may I be struck by lightning if I try to pigeon hole our grandchildren. None of them will be "just like" their father or mother or their grandparents for that matter.