diversity

Nostalgia

I am not sentimental or nostalgic. I rarely look back on what many of my generation refer to as “the good old years.”

I enjoy the benefits of living in an age where I can carry my phone with me. I believe online shopping is a godsend and who can complain about watching first-run movies at home in your jammies and fuzzy shoes?

When I do look back, I realize how thankful I am for my childhood. It saddens me that current political stances make those experiences impossible for other children.

If I could go back in time, I’d take my six-year-old self by the hand and tell her to soak up the treasure of her diverse community. The Lebanese, Syrian, Jewish and Greek merchant’s shops she visits with her grandmother reveal cultures that she would have never experienced otherwise. She doesn’t know this will shape her acceptance of other people.

The children of these immigrants are her school mates. Their surnames are their only distinguishing factors. Like her, they live for recess and hate arithmetic as much as she does. She doesn’t know that her future holds a government that fails to value the diversity of immigrants.

The beginning of every school day began with the pledge of allegiance, before “under God” was added. (My six-year-old self attended Sunday school and if I am truthful, she didn’t think much about God until the following Sunday.) There was no school prayer thus no one suffered the indignity of paying respects to an unfamiliar deity in a diverse classroom.

As a fifth-generation Texan, I knew about guns. My father did not own a gun and we never felt unsafe due to the absence of a weapon in our home. My six-year-old self looked forward to the fire and tornado drills in school as a respite from the classroom. I cannot imagine the fear she would have felt at the thought of hiding from a gunman.

A six year old today has never experienced the wonder of summer fireflies teasing us with the mystery of their source of light. Butterflies, bees and some species of birds no longer visit.

I can look back with joy at the advantages my six year old self enjoyed. Without significant change in our leadership, a six year old today will inherit a world sadly lacking those advantages.

Tolerance and Diversity Alive and Well at the Supermarket

Home or curbside delivery of groceries has a dark side to it. This service separates us from the one place where commonality unites us and tolerance and acceptance co-exist; the supermarket.

Our neighborhood supermarket is not a small bodega, but part of a large chain. A mini united nations, hijabs, turbans, and saris mix freely with saggers, soccer mom’s activewear, high fashion stilettos, business attire and retired folks sweats.

I’ve been tapped on the shoulder more than once by a shopper who speaks limited English wanting to know where an item is.

The other day, I asked a tall black man if he would grab the horseradish off the top shelf for me. He asked which heat level I wanted and when I replied, “extra hot”, His mom dressed in her African kaftan, clasped her hands to her chin and smiled her approval. I didn’t know if she smiled because she approved of my choice, or because we are both short.

I wandered over to the olive oil section and as I read the ingredients listed on my selection, this very handsome young man sidled over to me and said, “you might as well cook with lighter fluid.” Thoughts of who I could hook him up with raced around in my brain until he introduced his partner, another handsome young man. While giving me a brief rundown on a cooking class they were taking, I wondered, how did they know I was approachable. I am in that demographic group that if one believes pollsters, is intolerant of just about everything.

I concluded it must be the white hair, code for “grandma” everywhere, as babies from all ethnicities wave and smile at me from their mother’s shopping cart.

Not everyone is as tolerant of older people as babies are.

Often, portrayed as stodgy, not with it; comparable to the “use by date” yogurt taking up space in the fridge.  I observed an older couple as they pushed their shopping cart to the exit of the store. Walking side by side, the woman reached over and gave the man a little pinch on his hinny. So much for stodgy; I’m guessing putting their purchases away first when they arrived back home was not a priority.

I’ve seen every ethnicity, combination of diversity and age group at our supermarket interact without any hint of controversy or discord.

It occurred to me the reason why may be because the one thing I have never seen there is a big, red, ugly MAGA cap.

Thanksgiving and Diversity

Attitudes surrounding the recent election make me aware of how fortunate I am.

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, my thoughts turned to the colorful diversity of my childhood.

During the 1940’s  the railroad brought   business owners of different cultures to our east Texas town .

A shopping trip to the town square with my grandmother was a treat. Shops owned by Jewish merchants offered all kinds of merchandise. They sold the cotton stockings my grandmother wore every day and the silk stockings she saved for  Sundays. While grandmother shopped, I sat on a stool and stuffed myself with the peanut butter logs offered by the shopkeeper. It was magic.

Our German pediatrician frightened me, intimidated my parents, but made house calls. He over-ruled some pretty awful home remedies and usually had candy in his bag.

One of my first grade classmates was Greek. I never thought about her ancestry, she was just “Helen” to me. Her parents owned the hotel next to the railroad terminal. A visit to her home revealed a large extended family, including her grandmother who hugged us both until we couldn’t breathe.

We purchased our groceries from a Lebanese family. Three generations of them worked in the store. My mother refused to serve meat that was not purchased from them. They always sent food when there was a death in our family and we sent flowers when there was a death in theirs. They were our friends.

The owner of the shoe store was Jewish. Had it not been for his  intervention, I would have been destined to wear the awful Jumping Jack shoes until puberty. Thanks to him, I graduated to Mary Janes.

We purchased my clothes from a Syrian owned store. The mother was the leader of my campfire group. Their daughter was my friend and partner in crime at our sleepovers. We were experts at toilet papering lawns. It was my good fortune that my mother trusted their judgment enough to let me shop on my own in their store.

Now I look back with gratitude at how much richer my life was because of these people.

I am thankful they were part of my life, an experience that in today’s political climate may no longer be possible.

 

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