One of my favorite people in the world is named Billy. I used to visit Billy when I dated one of his co-workers. Billy would ask about what I was teaching. I would tell him the topics of the week and we would have some very interesting conversations.
I would share comments that I heard from “a friend” with my students. Billy was the friend. The students looked forward to what he said and good discussions would result.
Back in April, I started a book tour. Billy came with his wife, Judy, who is a teacher. I told her about our conversations and how Billy was “the friend” that would get my students stirred up. Judy wasn’t surprised at all. Their older children are teachers and their younger son is a bright and energetic student athlete. I imagine they all have strong opinions. Judy also told me about some of the ways that Billy helps people from different circumstances and how he serves as a Christian. That didn’t surprise me at all.
What makes Billy unique is that he can voice his opinions so openly. He has absolutely no desire to be politically correct. I respect that. It would be nice if we all thought the same way, but, in reality, we don’t. Mostly, he is funny.
I never felt the need to debate with Billy. He’s a grown man and his sentiments come from many experiences. He’s come to logical conclusions. He has common sense and he has never been offensive. I just listened. In a world full of so many different kinds of people, 100% agreement on every topic can not be expected.
The wonderful thing about people like Billy is that their respect for other people keeps their minds open. New information and experiences are presented every day and they take it into consideration. They think about things because they always want to do the right thing. It doesn’t matter where you are from and what you have seen when it comes to that.
People can’t help but develop opinions about how the “other” people are living. The difference nowadays is that the “other” people are your neighbors and co-workers. In fact, it’s likely that you are the “other” person here. In a city like Philadelphia, you can easily find a cluster of people who are similar to you and conduct your daily business within your comfort zone. There are people there who have never had significant interaction with people who are unlike themselves. I choose diversity over that every time.
Not that mixing with different kinds of people is easy. You learn some really unpleasant things about yourself when you leave your comfort zone. Usually, the things that you find wrong with the “other” people are exactly the things that are wrong with you.
My personal pet peeve is snobbery. I grew up with a whole lot of emphasis on “people like us” and staying within certain social and economic boundaries. Lawrence Otis Graham wrote a book about it called “Our Kind of People” that people like us might have found embarrassing, but mostly we just looked for our names or people we knew. It’s a tiny world and people want to keep it that way.
A few days ago, I pulled into my driveway and someone in another car slowed down and waved at me. I didn’t recognize the person, so I gave him my best “Keep Moving” look. Random friendship never happened in my world. It’s a tiny world where everybody knows each other. If not, you wait to be introduced. You can see a person regularly and still not know them. I didn’t make the rules, but apparently, I am good at following them.
A co-worker reminded me that I live in a small town. People wave here! The waver probably knows me from church. I know. Pray for me.
I thought about Billy and how I used to tell him that he had “issues. ” Now I see that appreciating diversity is just accepting people whose issues are different than yours. I take students on a semester-long journey to that point. A little while with someone like will get you there too and you will laugh all the way.
Dr. LaMar researches, writes, and speaks about mentoring relationships among professional women. She also consults with growing businesses about how personality and processes can affect workplace dynamics. Her books “God Provides The Sacrifice: Women Discuss Making Their Hardest Decision" and “Drama Free Workplace" can be purchased in e-book format and paperback from her web sites or by calling 806-203-4094. http://www.DrLaMar.com http://www.DramaFreeWorkplace.com http://www.PhenomenalWomansGuide.com