Eight of us filled a pew at a Christmas Eve children’s service in Silver Spring, Maryland. We joined my daughter, her family, and her close friend’s family to celebrate together. Our group represented people of many faiths: Jewish, Muslim, Zoroastrian, Protestant, and Catholic. As we sang Christmas Carols and lit candles, I looked at the smiling faces of the congregation and saw a full palette of colors. In a moment filled with awe, I reflected on how wonderful it would be if people everywhere would sing in harmony and light.
Engaging with diverse groups or individuals improves our wellbeing and productivity. Levels of empathy and compassion heighten. We feel more loving toward all, even strangers. The Disney song says it best:
“It’s a world of laughter
A world of tears
It’s a world of hopes
And a world of fears
There’s so much that we share
That it’s time we’re aware
It’s a small world after all.”
We entered 2024 with heavy hearts. Wars in the Middle East and Ukraine, climate change, political divisions of unprecedented proportions, and bias crimes fill our 24-hour news cycles and stress our bodies and souls. Our world has morphed into an “us versus them” scattershot of subgroups. Many of us live in chronic fight-or-flight mode, wondering who poses a threat and who’s safe. Chronic stress can wreak havoc on our health and wellbeing. “Increase your blood pressure for a few minutes to evade a lion; that’s good. But increase your blood pressure every time you’re in the vicinity of a stress inducing person or event, you begin to get cardiovascular disease,” according to Robert Sapolsky, a neuroscientist expert on the health impact of stress.
What shall we do to keep grounded and defeat the jack-in the- box impact of the continually polarizing news? How can we promote diversity in our world?
With so much conflict and people in need all over the world, from Eastern Europe, to Sudan, to the Middle East, to South America – support people by donating to groups like Doctors Without Borders and Save the Children. Giving grows compassion for others who are different from us.
Other ways to build diversity, recommended by the Ad Council: 1. Ask questions and make more connections with people of different races, religions, or nationalities.
2. Be an ally: Learn how to challenge biased language through meaningful actions and communication.
3. Create a sense of belonging.
4. Reconsider stereotypes. Unpack biases.
5. Consider your actions and reactions: Notice if you stare at people with disabilities or look away as if they were invisible. Notice if you cross to the other side of the street or clutch your purse when people from certain racial and religious groups pass nearby.
Think about those whose voices aren’t represented. “Who is at the table? Whose voices are missing?” Consider ways to incorporate diverse perspectives into the discussion.
Share your advice or heartwarming stories about diversity in your life with The Westfield Leader and Union County HAWK by writing “Gratitude” in the subject line and emailing email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.