When I lived in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, I experienced the sights, sounds, and smells of the world at my doorstep.
Snippets of conversations in several languages during an afternoon at the playground.
Corner grocery stores, each unique in its ethnic offerings, within a five minute drive of home.
Ethiopian, Mediterranean, Jamaican, Greek, Italian, Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern restaurants, all authentic, all within walking distance.
One of the most diverse neighborhoods in America with people speaking more than 80 different languages make their home there, nearly 70,000 people in one and a half square miles: living, working, playing.
When we left the city, I lamented the fact that my daughters would miss out on such a rich, diverse environment. During our time in the city, we made friends with a wonderful girl named Maria and her mother, who moved to Chicago when Maria was still an infant. Yelena, Maria’s mother, spoke very little English. She walked everywhere. We would run into them at the beach or the library and they always invited us to their apartment, to share meals. They welcomed us into their home for birthdays and on summer afternoons.
We met other friends with interesting backgrounds and experiences, but most of our friends — and certainly our closest ones — were mostly just like us.
Overall, we didn’t take advantage of living in such a culturally diverse neighborhood. We most often ate at Panera Bread or Noodles and Company. I shopped at Sam’s Club. I stuck to the familiar and the comfortable. And I missed out.
Our new neighborhood is decidely less diverse. I have seen a scattering of ethnic restaurants but so far everyone I’ve encountered speaks English. My daughters classmates are, outwardly at least, mostly homogeneous.
You may live in a very diverse place, or you may live somewhere where everyone looks a lot like you.What’s important is being open… open to new experiences, new people. Open to relating to people who are different from you, learning from peoples’ different perspectives, and enjoying diversity.
If you do live in a diverse place, don’t miss out. Soak it in, enjoy it, savor it. Above all, look for opportunities to learn.
If you live in a place that doesn’t seem diverse (outwardly), look beneath the surface to discover, uncover, and celebrate difference.
Join the conversation!
How diverse is your community?
What do you do to celebrate and savor difference?
This was originally posted at Mountain State University LeaderTalk and is re-posted with permission.