I just saw a post on Facebook by someone who doesn't like to do much more than complain. The only thing that makes her happier than complaining is to have people agree with her complaints. She complains about people being different from her. She complains about people that act just like her. It got me to thinking about the things I have learned to appreciate about people.
There are so many types of people around me that I know I'm very lucky to have so much diversity in my life. My neighborhood when I was a kid had a mix of Hungarian, Polish, Scottish, Irish, Italian and just plain white. My elementary school was the same.....just a handful of non-white kids. Junior high was waaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy different. Lots Puerto Ricans and African Americans. It was a mini melting pot. High school was wonderful, Asians, Jamaicans, folks from South American countries, Haitians, Chinese. And I was never the type of person to only be friends with any one type of person.
All of that was much different than my home life. My father is Puerto Rican, my mom is Irish and Polish. But they were divorced and I was really growing up in a white household. My parents (mom and step-dad) didn't want me to really be friends with non-whites.....they didn't mind me associating but I always felt the criticism from them with being actual friends with these kids. I know the fact that I dated those boys was a HUGELY insulting thing for my parents.
Not saying I didn't like who I was or other white people, but they were the norm for me my entire childhood. I wanted to meet and experience things, places, food and people that weren't like me. I still do this now. I love to watch how even with vastly different cultures and backgrounds, we all usually wind up in the same place doing the same stuff.
Example for me is opera music. I hated it as a kid. It was not in English, I couldn't get with the instruments being played. And those crazy costumes....LOL. Nope, not for me. Then someone told me not to worry about the music itself. To close my eyes and concentrate on feelings opera would let me experience. And sure enough they were right. I closed my eyes, I didn't understand a word I heard. But I cried. I felt sorrow. I felt anguish. I felt elated. I felt like flying. I still don't know much about opera, but when I do listen to it.........my eyes are always closed.
I had a friend that I knew was African American. Nope....LOL. I went to her house when I was about 14 years old. And she spoke Jamaican (Patwa?) with her family and I'm glad my eyes didn't fall out. She's Jamaican, but without the thick accent I'd assumed a person from Jamaica would have, I didn't catch on. I had another friend that was Vietnamese. The first time I was invited for dinner I was so excited. I practiced using chopsticks so I would not look like an idiot. I got there and found out we were having spaghetti and meatballs. Turns out they didn't even own any chopsticks. See? Never assume.
I guess the big lessons I've learned are as follows.........
Be prepared for differences
Be prepared for no differences
Enjoy everything when the opportunity arises
And most of all..........share it back and forth