I hope you enjoy my little slice of life as I knew it while growing up, one that shaped me to celebrate diversity.
Sweet home Chicago, the melting pot where I grew up! Skirting the inner city along the lake, we thrived and meshed with all races, sizes, religions, and beliefs. Rich lineage from all different walks of life, combined with tight pockets of families and neighbors.
The butcher, the baker, the drug store, the L train, the library, the Catholic School, the department store, the diversity. We were never hit by cars, but we crossed busy streets. We were bullied by kids and our bikes were stolen, but we held our own. We went to carnivals with all our friends and didn’t have our faces buried in cell phones.
Whiffs of Indian food hovered in the alleys when we walked home from school.
Different. Not the same. Celebrated.
The city kids were the closest group of friends that I ever had, even after moving out to the suburbs. We hung out and stuck together like glue. As kids, we played tag, had pizza parties, and sleepovers. Ice skating, bowling, movies, birthdays, and summers as beach bums; we hung out everywhere from backyards and alleys to parking lots. Sometimes we’d be getting chased by the cops because of loitering, or we would gaze at the hunky lifeguards from our Beetle convertible on our adventures to hot, summer beaches, hair whip in the wind, and freedom.
Our “clan” consisted of diversity; we came from different religions, racial groups, and homes. We were raised by single moms and bum dads, drug-dealing brothers, and families with English sheep dogs. There were fun parents full of humor, and some who hung their double D bras in the bathroom. Some parents always worked and were never seen and others that seemed to be there just when you needed them. Some brothers grew weed in the backyard and some sisters were super bossy. And all of us gathered to talk about how dysfunctional our families were, but then again, we all had something in common:
We were different, and we accepted each other just the way we were. Harmony in disharmony.
Why can’t we be the same today? What happened to accepting people for they are?
The “clan” is now scattered. Some became cops and others got into drugs, some hit it big while others are in jail, Benz’s and cancer, and others escaped to the suburbs to build families with their spouse and kids. No matter how scattered we are, we’ll always have our own memories we can laugh at, cry, dance, and celebrate. As kids, we never looked upon each other as lucky, poor, rich, messed up or judged we just enjoyed each other’s company and appreciated the many shades of skin color, stories, and personalities.
Okay fine, I’ll say I miss it. I miss the melting pot. I miss going to a culturally diverse college and learning to understand all different walks of life. Sometimes I feel too sheltered, bubbled, and protected.
When I was on a trip to a cozy, small island named Anguilla, we stopped to ask a native man for directions to a beach. He said he could take us there with the intention of a tip. Okay, here we go, a complete stranger taking us to a quiet, out-of-the-way beach. What was I thinking? Show us the way! First of all, the island was small, connected, and had little crime. I just trusted my gut, my hunch. It’s not something I would do now, but I felt “the peaceful island way.” He led us to the beach, pocketed his tip and went back home. And the beach was a treasure beyond what we had ever seen!
Maybe my childhood experiences of being exposed to many diverse people gave me the wisdom to follow my instincts.
As we hit pause on the podcasts, apps, and social media, let’s really celebrate shades of diversity in people, places, and things. We are meant to connect with one another, and live life on this one planet that we all have in common. Peace.
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