1: the state of being diverse; variety.
2 : an instance of being composed of differing elements or qualities
The world prides itself in it’s diversity, but in the same manner, shows it's disgusting lack of that very thing. People either strive to be completely different than everyone around them or they strive to be exactly like everyone they see. The funny part about all of that is, we live in a society that says we should be “individuals” and I use that very loosely. When we look around there are so many people who look so much alike in their “individuality” that they make up their own group. Now isn’t that contradictory?? It’s bananas…for real.
I live in a community that is predominantly populated by people who don’t look like me, aren’t in the same socioeconomic category, educational qualifications, marital status, family makeup..all of those areas that we categorize people in a community. I was one of maybe 4 black people in the entire county. So imagine my dilemma when I moved here in my youth (mid 20’s), and then back here in my early 30’s. It was hard to understand where I was supposed to fit in and why I didn’t. It was difficult to understand why people treated me the way they did without knowing me. See, some people were overly nice because they felt they had to be to make up for those who were downright hateful. Then you had those who were blatantly rude and disgusted at my presence, my relationship, and later my beautifully, culturally, ethnically different family. As a college educated female athlete who was extremely extroverted and charismatic who happened to be black with a college educated alpha male athlete who was the hometown superstar basketball player, who was also extroverted and charismatic AND happened to be white….people were somewhat in awe and intimidated by us. They were amazed, fascinated even, by me because for one, there were people here who had never seen a black person in real life. I know that sounds crazy but it’s true. At the time, I worked with children, and there were days some of them would ask to touch my face…because they wanted to know what it felt like. YES, that is a true story…basically, I had to actually come to grips with this being my real life. It wasn’t what I was used to and it was almost ridiculous to me. In those moments, I was being molded, tested, stretched and made.
There were times, I cried. I was angry, I was hurt, concerned and irritated. There were times that I would ask God to move me, help me change people..and then I stopped. I grew faint in the fight to make people around me culturally aware or attempting to show them how very similar we were despite our obvious differences. I was discouraged.
Four years later, we moved back to my hometown in North Carolina and I was thankful to be home with my family and my familiar surroundings. That time was short because we were called back to southern Indiana and this time, we had children. (Insert terror filled heart, mind and facial expression right here!) I didn’t know how to feel, what to think or what to do. I remembered how I was treated at times and I most definitely didn’t want my babies to have to be faced with that!! Well, I was pleasantly surprised to find that through the years, people remembered me; not because I was different, but because of the impact I made on the lives of the youth I worked with and their families. Despite the treatment I received, I chose to help the children, some of whom belonged to racist parents, and because of my heart and desire to make a difference, I was able to be the difference. I was overwhelmed with the response of the school staff and community leaders and people, who thanked me for the help I had given. It was at that moment I realized there were more people inherently like me. More like me, than those who were not.
We were truly a community that was not diverse; in more ways than others and in a way that most didn't think about or relate. The majority were a group of people who wanted our families to be better than the previous generations. We wanted our children to be exposed to different things in life than we had. We wanted unity amongst different groups and cities. We wanted God to be the head of our lives and our communities. We wanted peace in our homes and our hearts. We all wanted the SAME THINGS! We were all the same type of people who just happened to look a little different and live at different addresses; but we lived the same lives. We had the same routines and responsibilities. We were adults…doing "big people" things now. There was no diversity because the community I came to know was composed of the same elements and qualities. We wanted a better life for our community and families. We were choosing to magnify Christ and in doing so, we recognized how similar we all were. It is funny how getting married and having children opens your eyes to a whole new world!
In essence, we are all the same. There seriously is no diversity in the lives of believers. There is no need to see the differences we possess because those were the things that enhanced our similarities. God needed me to see the vast differences of my two experiences in the very same place to bring me back to know, in Christ we are one. He made us to glorify Him in all that we do. What I hope that can be learned by all who live in the community I live in, the city, the county, the state that I live in, is that we all need to come together and see what we have in common before we hurt others. We need to stand up for those of us who have been wronged by the ignorance of others and help them to understand that right is right and wrong is wrong. We need to show the few who choose to be prejudiced against those who don’t look like them, that there are many who aren’t that way. Don’t stand back and allow families, children and the innocent to be hurt because of traditional ignorance. We must make a difference, even if it is against a generational heritage of hate and bias. Our future depends upon it. Regardless of the trials we face on our journey, we must remember Romans 8:28:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. NIV
God kept me and my family through all of these experiences. So, I charge you to be the example, to be a leader. Be who you want to be treated like. Be a guardian of those like you and a light to those who are blinded by darkness. In order to create diversity, you must first recognize the true differences of those around you and instead of mistreating them because of superficial differences and ignorances, find out what really matters. Find out about their character, their needs, the desires of their hearts. Find out who they are deep down; not on the surface. We need to learn before we can grow and if you never take time to know a person, you will never understand who they are.