When I was growing up, my Mom and my Nana used to tell me that the things that made people different were what made the world go ‘round. I was taught that it was okay to be different, because “think of how boring the world would be if we were all the same.” In hindsight, I realize that basic ideology had a significant influence on the core of who I am. I do my best to accept people for who they are, I try to come from a place of understanding, and I take opportunities to learn from people and situations that are new to me.
That said, I have also found this to be one of my downfalls, because I truly have a hard time understanding why there are so many people in the world who are unwilling to open their minds; instead choosing to reject anything that is different from their own ideals. In my experience, the worst thing that can happen when you open your mind and seek to understand something new or different is that nothing changes. After learning more about something that you previously didn’t understand, you might maintain your original stance and that’s okay, because at least you were receptive to a new idea.
The best thing that can happen? You might find that you have a whole new arena of possibilities to explore – friends, opportunities, culture – the growth that a person can experience from an open mind is endless.
When I think about the news that has consumed my feed over the last year with politics, social issues, and terrorism; I think about all of the different factors that have to be involved to create the stories that become the topics of conversations and even arguments. For more than a year I have watched Presidential hopefuls raise their voices to the masses as they seek to prove why they are a better choice than their opponents; because their ideals are better for our country. I have seen and heard people write and say horrible things about the LGBT community, because they dared to seek equality and have the same rights as straight men and women.
I am often met with the abhorrent fact that racism is somehow still a very big, very real component in society and the sexism that sits next to it is equally detestable; yet people continue to deny their existence. Terrorism and hate crimes are repeated in different scenarios around the world and they have become a disgusting version of ‘normal’ that continues to baffle me.
I often wonder: for all of the terrible things that people say and do, would the outcome be the same if there was more understanding in the world? If we were more open and receptive to let people be who they want to be – whether we agree with their choices or not – would there be less bias, anger, and hatred towards the many differences and ways of life – that without accurate information – are unknown and misunderstood? If being gay hadn’t been denounced so many centuries ago, would the disdain that we still see for the LGBT community prevail today? If slavery hadn’t existed, would we have racism? If women were equal, would men question their ability to run nations or even corporations? If people as a whole were more receptive to finding the good in the things that make us different, we could accomplish so much more.
Consider this for a moment: the human race is an incredible species. We’re innovative, intelligent beings with the ability to do nearly anything we put our minds to. We have the capability to form and exchange thoughts through many languages with our choice in how the information gets communicated. Yet, instead of collaborating on how we can leave the world a better place for the generations behind us, we fight each other over religion, sexual orientation, race, and politics.
Why does it matter if you’re a Christian and your neighbor is Muslim as long as you’re both good people? Does it truly have any personal effect on you if you discover that your co-worker is gay or transgender as long as they do their part to ensure the job gets done? Wouldn’t it be nice if the generations that follow us didn’t have to worry about being targeted because of the color of their skin; and political agendas really were for the greater good of the people? Idealistic, I know; but my point is that we can gain so much more from one another by being open minded to the differences that make up our societies.
People have a tendency to fear the things they don’t understand, but what they don’t understand is that the things they fear might guide them to become better, more enlightened versions of themselves. You don’t have to agree with another person’s ideals in order to understand and learn from them. Everyone has something to offer and we all have many things to learn. The differences that set us apart don’t have to divide us when they have the ability to unite us.