I've been lucky. I grew up in a home where diversity was part of who we were. It took me years to figure out that not every household had so many people stopping in. We had friends from different ethnicities and religions, as my aunts and grandmother loved entertaining and invited people over all the time. We even had a boy from another country staying with us for a while. My family always made an extra plate of food, and always had coffee brewing. The door was open from morning to night time, and a seemingly endless stream of neighbors and friends came and went, all day. Those neighbors and friends became part of the family, and when they were not in our house, chances are we were at theirs. We didn't need to tell them we were home- if the door was open, it was fair game. They had the same policy at their houses.
I didn't know then, but I was privileged. I had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people, just by sitting in my living room while the adults chatted over a steaming cup of Dominican coffee. I have wonderful memories of these people, and even stay in contact with them to this day. It inspired me to learn other languages too, just to be able to communicate with even more people.
I want a similar experience for my kids, but it's harder here. Life is different, everyone is busier. I compensate by having friends from all over and trying to have my kids spend time with them when possible- but it's not as often as I would like. And now with the pandemic, we have not had anyone over for a long time, except for maybe a couple of minutes while we awkwardly stand by the door with masks on. Some friends were part of my pod during the worst of it, but we rarely spent time together at my house, if ever. I wish I could give my children what my family gave me, the chance to see with my own eyes that different people, with different ideologies and cultures, can be friends and have a great time together. I'm trying to show them, the best I can. I hope they remember their childhood some day, and cherish the moments we had together with our friends like I did.
The other day I found a comic from an artist in Canada, that highlighted in simple terms why she loved diversity. As I read the simple page, designed for children, it hit me that those were the same reasons I had. So I decided to use it, and write about it. I tried reaching out to her for permission, but I had no answer- so I've decided not to use the picture. But I'll still use her idea, so if you want to see it, her name is Elise Gravel.
These are some of the reasons why I love diversity:
- Because I can learn cool things from other people. I have friends from all over the world and all walks of life, and one of my favorite things is to go visit them, and to be able to talk to them about their traditions, their culture, their family. I've even learned cool things about my own culture, and about myself, in these conversations. I love to see people's eyes and how they light up when they are talking about the things they care about.
- I can discover amazing new food. I've had so many different things in so many different places. Some I am not brave enough to try yet (Lutefisk), some have become my favorites (Sushi). So far I've tasted food from 4 countries in Africa, at least 6 different ones from Europe (shout out to the Sausages in Bulgaria, and the fish I had in a market in Germany), and several dozens more from Asia, North and South America, Central America and the Caribbean. They were all delicious and have made me appreciate how we humans always find a way to connect through food, no matter who we are or where we come from.
- I can get to experience music, books, movies, dances and all kinds of art expressions, that I might not had the chance to see otherwise. One of my favorite movies is Belgian, another is French. I love Spanish guitars and their Tablaos. There's a tradition of painting eggs for Easter in northern Europe, that it's simply amazing. My favorite authors are Colombian and Argentinian. I love Anime and Manga. My family and I went to the pride parade a couple years ago and had a great time. I wouldn't have been able to experience any of these things as well without my friends from different countries and cultures.
- I get to meet new friends. And that's always a good thing. As my 8 year old daughter said once, a stranger is just a friend you have not been able to talk to yet.
- I have the chance to open up my mind to new ideas. This one is not always easy. When we grow up thinking the world is a certain way, and things are "supposed" to be this way or the other, it's very humbling to realize that there's more than one way to do things. Sometimes their way might be better even. Sometimes you learn to agree to disagree. Sometimes you get to challenge their view of things. Having multiple perspectives helps me improve my own, and I believe one becomes more empathetic, for you start seeing the human component in the ideologies, and you begin understanding where some of them are coming from. In some instances I don't agree with these ideologies, but they still help me understand others just the same.
- It helps me expand my knowledge. I've learned so many wonderful words from other languages. So many facts about other countries that only locals would know. Learned to make wonderful food. Learned about other countries traditions, and other people's way of living life. It's amazing how much you can learn from others, without even trying.
- I get to experience other countries, without having to leave home. This became even more important for me during the lockdown. I've had the chance to leave home, but being homebound for the time being, it's always refreshing to see other people's posts on social media, or their pictures.
- It helps me find new ways to express myself. Makes me a better artist, a better person. Do I need to say more?
Diversity has definitely improved my life in ways I'm still discovering every day. It has brought so much joy to me, in so many different ways. I hope more people get to experience these joys as well.
Next time you have the chance to connect with other people, share what makes your culture amazing. We all have a lot to offer to others, and what might seem boring to you- it's interesting for someone that's never heard of it, or tasted it, or seen it. You never know, you might have more in common with that person than you originally thought.
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