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.
I am the founder/CEO of the Weaving Influence team, the author of Reach: Creating the Biggest Possible Audience for Your Message, Book, or Cause, and the host of the Book Marketing Action Podcast. I’m a wife and mom of three kids, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, coffee, and dark chocolate.
Living in Europe, I still miss Costco! I love to make a visit when I go home to Canada. But here . . . the selection of breads and cheeses and my favourite – the wines are all amazing. There are still corner stores that specialize in meat or pastries.
Sometimes the differences get a bit overwhelming. This is especially true if you lack a language as I do.
Becky, not only is celebrating these differences amazing opportunities to learn but so much more. When embraced they are opportunities for greater tolerance, increased acceptance, ability to see yourself as a part of something so much bigger (perspective perhaps) and the realization that this is more than an opportunity — it is an imperative if we collectively hope to continue sharing this global world of ours.
Becky, like you we often feel our neighborhood is “vanilla”. That said we’re accustomed to venturing out short/long distances to ensure we’re exposing ourselves and our girls to other cultures and walks of life.
It’s interesting to hear your story. We’re just the opposite. Spent our lives in small(er) towns and often wonder what it would be like to live on the “wild-side”. We’ve always loved Chicago and hope to visit again this summer.
Two years ago I moved from Ft. Collins, CO to the French Quarter in New Orleans! Wow! We have constant festivals, good food,music, art, tourists from around the world here every weekend. These are people that just LOVE New Orleans. Jazzfest is coming up and I am still learning how to navigate it all because there is so much to do and experience.
You must have a bike to live in the Quarter. It is so fun to ride to the various places easily and my favorite is down famous Royal street which has many beautiful antique shops. Getting out of my comfort zone has given me a new appreciation for life, cultures, people that is difficult to find in a straight “vanilla” place. One thing that has been most wonderful, is the level of acceptance of everyone when there is a high degree of diversity. As a result of the exposure to these differences I am exploring “being an artist” and creating a life which includes more travel and trying more things around the world.
The world is our very own, businesses the right in order to select their particular life. To search out the ideal it, bless you!