One of my all-time favorite sayings is, “Variety is the spice of life.” I try to keep it in mind as each day unfolds. Doing and experiencing various activities are much of what creates an interesting, fulfilling life. Meeting and acquainting myself with people from various ethnicities, nationalities, sexual orientations, genders, races, who have different belief systems and educational backgrounds has enriched my life.
I don’t know if I’m the first person to coin the expression, “Social diversity is the spice of life.”, but I think the statement is worth contemplating. Just as eating the same foods all the time is boring and unhealthy, so is doing the same thing with the same mindset intellectually boring and unhealthy. From time to time we introduce ourselves to new foods; why not introduce ourselves to different types of human beings?
Perhaps one of the best decisions my parents made was to invite a foreign exchange student to live with us for awhile.
Carlos was a brilliant honor-roll student who was focused upon becoming a medical doctor. His cheerful demeanor made him instantly popular at school. Because he shared my private space he became my older brother for the duration of his stay. This relieved me of my role as the oldest kid in the family and caused a true paradigm shift in how I experienced the world. Instead of feeling threatened by this change in family hierarchy, I welcomed it with open arms. It was the chance of a lifetime to understand what having an older brother can feel like.
Carlos being a member of the family and not being merely a guest, changed the family dynamic as to how we all interacted. Probably the most noticeable change happened to dad. Prior to inviting Carlos to live with us, dad’s opinion set included a fair amount of racial bias and xenophobia. To this day, I don’t understand why he made the conscious decision to set those negative beliefs aside and invite a foreign exchange student into our lives.
Dad fully accepted Carlos as another son. Even after Carlos’ stay ended, the two maintained communications in letters, phone calls, and some personal visits. They kept in touch until dad’s demise. Although dad retained a fair share of his extreme right-wing political opinions, he drew the line at xenophobia. The decision to bring Carlos into our lives ended dad’s fear of non-American people.
“We need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn’t a matter of political correctness. It’s a matter of understanding what makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith.”–Barack Obama
It’s probably due to knowing Carlos, that dad surprised the family by fully accepting Mr. Obama as President of the United States. This happened despite the fact that dad was a staunch Republican and had voted for Arizona Senator John McCain. After Obama had served his first year, dad made a memorable comment: “President Obama behaves a lot like Ike.” Dad continued to have a soft spot in his heart for Mr. Obama the rest of his life.
Somehow, dad was able to shake off much of his strong political bias and make a fairly objective, judgment of the Democratic office holder. Dad’s opinion of Obama was an anomaly, because dad continued to hold ultra-conservative views the rest of his life. Dad’s Obama exception still puzzles me.
Our diversity is our strength. One of President George H.W. Bush’s public statements that I liked was about our country’s many communities. “…a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.” This is an idealistic view that still has broad appeal.
Even though social diversity is the spice of life, social diversity is much more. It is all about all of us. Social diversity is about learning how to share this world and live productively and peacefully together. April is Diversity Month–a time when we can focus upon expanding our social horizons.