Diversity enriches my world. I love being surrounded by people who bring different, more colorful perspectives to life.
In kindergarten, I liked going to art class with a big box of crayons. The more colors available, the greater my options for creating a refrigerator-worthy objet d’art.
In college, I engaged in vigorous debates with professors and fellow students. My education would have been shallow and boring if everyone had thought alike.
At my work, diversity creates a stronger, more productive team. My creativity flourishes when I’m surrounded by individuals who are different than I am. I value the perspective of those who challenge me to see the world from a different vantage point.
Yet, as much as I value diversity, I also recognize its downside. Diversity can quickly divide rather than unite. Obsessing on ways we are each different can goad me into being competitive or even combative. When I concentrate only on my differences with others, I tend to become angry, bitter or even vengeful.
Diversity works best when it balances two things. First, it must prompt us to value the humanity and unique talents that each individual brings into the world. Second, it must prompt us to focus on the ways we are alike so we can build upon those things that unite us. (Wouldn’t it be nice if candidates for political office did the same during an election year?)
One of my favorite quotes comes from Maya Angelou. In her poem Human Family she says, “In minor ways we differ, in major we’re the same.“
Ms. Angelou closes her poem with these beautiful words:
I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.
In my personal life, I am blessed to have many friends. Each person is special and I value the diversity of age, race, faith, education, politics, socioeconomic status and even personality.
While I observe these differences, I refuse to focus on things that divide us. I prefer to look at what we share in common. Together we share the adventure of life’s great journey, although we may be at different places along the same path.