One of my favorite experiences of visiting Israel is being among a diverse people. The last time I visited, I often sat at a distance from crowds and used my best camera lens so as not to be intrusive as I took photos and captured diverse faces, expressions, dress, and culture. Where I live, the United States, is diverse, too, but I especially appreciate the beautiful combinations of features, cultures, and ethnicities in Israel.
Most of what I see is just that…what I see, on the outside. In the U.S., we are often required to check boxes to indicate our ethnicity, race, or religion. But checking a box doesn’t fully define any of us. Diversity is much more than faces and places. Diversity is about voices and personalities.
We can always find a way in which we differ from someone else. We can also always find a way in which we are similar to someone else. Sometimes, we look very similar but believe differently. Sometimes what we believe seems to be similar, yet how we live out those beliefs differs. Some condemn and attack others, which others confront only in specific situations, yet others avoid all confrontation whatsoever. Some oppose an idea or action by actively and publicly leading others in groups, while others work behind the scenes with individuals, yet others quietly wrestle through issues, depicting them through writing, art, or other expressions.
We can always find similarities in diversity, yet the diversity still exists. We can always choose to respect another, yet we will not always receive respect in return. We can choose compassion, yet it looks different across varying situations. We can choose forgiveness, yet we will still remain alert. We don’t have to react based on our generalizations driven by diversity, but we cannot set aside our discernment either. Just as we don’t want others to act on many assumptions they may have about us in whatever area we are determined as different from them, we can be attentive to our own assumptions, and look through them as a filter but not the only filter.
Sometimes, it is difficult to believe that the impossible is possible, that we can bridge rifts that have been created by small trickles and raging torrents through the years. If we only look to ourselves, we probably cannot believe the impossible. But it is not all about us. Many have come before us and many come after us, and in some way, we are both different from and similar to each and every one.
We have a responsibility in the example we leave for others to follow.
How are you living in diversity?
It’s a question we must each answer, day after day, moment by moment.
We are responsible for how we approach the possibilities of living in diversity.