Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Diversity - A Different Topic

This column is about diversity. Now there’s a different topic.

What does a white guy know about diversity? Well, I’ve learned a lot in facilitating multiple workshops on diversity awareness. I haven’t learned in the facilitating, but in the listening to people pouring their hearts out. I’ve thus become a student of diversity.

I’ve watched tears well up (mine, mostly) while participants described instances where salespeople stood close by – not to offer assistance, but to watch and make sure nothing gets stolen. Or, about having a flat tire on a country road and fearing for their life, for darkness to fall. What’s that like?

Garland is a diverse community. We’ve got it all. So what? What’s important is not having diversity, but recognizing diversity, valuing diversity, celebrating diversity, leveraging diversity.

My wife and I worked the Care Van last night at the McDonald’s on Walnut and Garland Road. The Care Van (there are multiple) rolls out to various locations around the state offering free immunizations to kids. They work with the local schools to set up clinics for those students needing their shots to stay in school. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas picks up all the administrative costs – Texans’ donations go directly to pay for the immunizations. Fill out a few forms (English on one side, Spanish the other), bring your child’s shot records, and get in line for free shots – and a sticker for a free McDonald’s ice cream cone afterwards.

What a diverse group there was. Hispanics, Blacks, Asians, East Indians, Whites. Children arrived with Mom, with Dad, with Mom and Dad, with Grandma, with big brother and big sister, with Auntie. A snapshot of Garland. All waited for a long time in multiple lines. Care Van volunteers spoke to them in a variety of languages. Totally diverse group, but with the same basic mission – offer these children a brighter, healthier future.

So, why is recognizing, valuing, celebrating, leveraging diversity so important to Garland’s future, and to our country’s future? Because diversity means different ways of thinking. Our city and country are in a financial mess right now, and if we just keep thinking the same way, we’re going to continue to see the same results. What we need is a new way of thinking – and that’s going to come from our diversity. Haven’t you ever had the experience where you said to yourself, “Wow, I’ve never thought about it like that!”?

Our country is in a serious energy crisis. We’re going to need some different thinkers to get us out of this mess. It seems the current thinkers are trying to figure out a way to get our hands on more oil. We need a new way of thinking. Perhaps how to reduce our country's dependence on oil by becoming the world leader in building creative, renewable energy sources. Now, there’s a different thought.

The more diverse our city is, the more diverse our country is, the more diverse the thoughts are going to be. The person who gets us headed down the right path to solving the energy crisis is most-likely not going to look like me, talk like me, dress like me, behave like me, think like me. And, thank goodness for that!

The person whose work ends our insatiable appetite for oil by showing us a new form of energy that’s clean, safe, renewable, and available to all may be one of those people whose body is covered with tattoos and piercings. Or, perhaps a first-generation American. Let’s make that person American of the Decade, and teach our children to think like her, and smile when we see others on the street who look like her. After all, she’ll be the one who helped turn our country back into the land of hope and promise.

We must understand (before we dig in our heals) that we are all different – backgrounds, education, friendships, religion, community, life experiences. So, we’re not all going to think alike. And, not only is that OK that we’re not going to think alike, the future of our country depends on it.

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