Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I Love Diversity

One of the fun things about living in a city like Rochester, MN, is that it is a highly diverse community. Thanks to a number of reasons there are lots of different ethnic groups here. It is not unusual to be sitting at one of my Caribou Coffee shops with people of different nationalities and languages. It keeps me aware of the incredible ways we are all different and yet all the same. Ever since I helped out on the Race Exhibit that the Science Museum of Minnesota developed when it was here in Rochester, I have been grateful for the ways we can share and live side-by-side here.

A couple weeks ago as Ramadan came to a close, Eid al-Fitr is the official name of the end, I happened to be downtown near the local Mosque. I parked across the street and did my errands. As I returned to my car, a gentleman I assume to be Muslim was walking along the sidewalk. He looked at me and broke into a big smile. No, he didn't know me. But he was excited about Eid al-Fitr and wanted to share it. He didn't speak English, but instead mimed that he was happy to be able to eat normally again- the fast was over. At first I was taken aback until I realized what he was doing. He smiled some more and expressed the joy of the end of the fast again. I smiled back and indicated I shared his joy for him.

That is what the wondrous picture of the United States is all about! The idea of a "melting pot" is a non-truth long ago disproved. While we do meld together in what we call "American" it is not a bland mixture of all kinds of different people from places far and wide. There is NOT this thing called "American." It is far more wondrous than that. It is a tapestry, a work of art that has been able to take all these different styles and ideas and personalities and ethnic backgrounds and make it into something of beauty, woven together with common desires for freedom and hope.

Which is why I get so upset at so many who think they have defined being a citizen of this country by a certain ethnic background. There was a time, and it is far less than a century ago, that the "true American" was a northern European. Oh- and Christian. Italians? Jews? Even some Spaniards? Chinese-no way. Japanese? Forget it.

Thank God we have these cross-currents to influence us. We have the ability to interact with people and cultures on a day-to-day basis. We are not diminished as a country by this. We are enriched. Perhaps we can even be a beacon of hope to a world still struggling with differences that lead to war.

As I have been sitting here writing there are some Egyptian-looking men speaking Arabic, some Muslim women wearing beautifully colorful clothing, an Asian-American studying for some exam, a guy with gray hair, young blondes, and others coming in and out.

What a beautiful place to live.

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