The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
Recently my wife and I were in the waiting room of an imaging center and seated to the right of us was a couple who spoke what sounded like Russian. To the left of us sat another couple who spoke what I guessed to be either Korean or Vietnamese. And as I listened to the two languages that filled our space, I couldn’t help but realize, once again, just how diverse our world really is. Six people, but feet apart, speaking three different languages, engaged in our own little worlds yet being an integral part of the life and movement of the whole world around us.
In realizing the diverse aspect that was at hand and using that moment as a classic example, it seemed to me that we as human beings are missing a critical lesson that permeates our very existence. The element of diversity is omnipresent and isn’t so much requiring a process of tolerance and understanding as it is a summons to embrace a form of collegiality that bears great benefits if only we recognize what is happening. There are so many marvels that exist everywhere and with those marvels come fascinating and amazing people. This remarkable diversity gives each one of us many opportunities to learn and become mindful of both people’s uniqueness and their special qualities.
And it is those very dynamics that shine even more prominently now as holiday greetings begin to fill the air with the traditional theme of peace on earth. Every year we wish for this miraculous transformation of true peace on this Earth. But that wish will never be fulfilled until we all sincerely embrace the beauty of diversity as one of the elements of co-existence.
Peace will come when we stop seeing others as obtuse obstacles in our life and instead see our fellow human beings as the unique individuals they are and accept them for who and what they are.
Biases and prejudices stem mostly from the fear of the unknown and the wariness of differences. Because something or someone is not exactly like us we tend to have an innate reluctance to associate with or accept those differences.
And because we have this unsettling hesitancy to socialize, a form of fear emerges, and the element of collegiality is then numbed or destroyed. When that takes place, the chance for establishing a desire for peaceful co-existence is challenged and we tend to build up a form of resistance. Distrust then dominates our emotions. It is at that point that a type of antipathy can possibly begin to control our thinking.
Embracing the diversity that surrounds us and instilling a true sense of acceptance is not, of course, the total remedy in gaining peace on earth. But it is a large component in establishing an understanding and tolerance of that which we tend to fear and divorce from our daily lives. There is no harmony in isolation. There is no communal stimulation in separateness and there is no peace when the fundamental principles of care, love and acceptance are not present.
Perhaps this season of holiday celebration can bring about a better understanding of that which separates us while at the same time brings us together. Perhaps during this time of thoughtful reflection and celebration we can come to live the words to a well-loved song: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” At least we can hope.