Larry Buford

*Diversity is the buzzword of the day in the workplace where we tend to be more tolerant of differences whether we like it or not. With that same effort and mindset, what if we did the same outside the workplace in our own community circle? What if we deliberately went out of our way to interact with those who are different? Each of us has a unique quality or experience by which another may benefit if given the opportunity to share it. Whether standing in line at the supermarket, sitting in a hospital waiting room – wherever and whenever – I look around and seek out opportunities where I can interact with another human being no matter what color, age, or gender.”

For those who think “well that’s just not me” – one way to get started is to just look at the obvious; the things that are just staring you in the face. I was in a Korean-owned business one day, and while waiting there at the counter I noticed an opened hymnal book on the desk of the Korean lady who was tending to me. I asked, “Are you practicing songs for church?” She said, “I’m practicing Christmas carols.” As we continued talking we discovered more about each other pertaining to music. Not only was she a Christian, but she said she enjoyed all types of music, especially Blues. Now this is from a Korean who has not yet mastered the English language!  But we communicated just fine. I point that out because oftentimes we presume someone of another ethnicity would not have anything in common to talk about. Guess again!

Once I said to a friend as we were walking along the pier one summer day during the height of tourism in Southern California, “Do you know we walk past people everyday that may have come from faraway places, and if we don’t take the time to say hello we may miss an opportunity for a once-in-a-lifetime encounter?” My friend said, “You’re right; I never thought about it like that!” Would you believe, not ten minutes later we spoke to a Black guy that was walking along, and as we engaged in conversation, discovered he was a citizen of Russia! That was a first for both of us! A Black guy – that looked like any other urban Black-American – from Russia, speaking both the English and Russian languages fluently!

So, it just goes to show, if we don’t take the time to find out, we’ll never really get to know each other. Seeking out commonalities and finding ways for inclusion can only serve to strengthen the diverse society in which we live. We all benefit when we show ourselves kind and friendly towards one another.

Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. Author of “Things Are Gettin’ Outta Hand” (Steuben Pub) Articles frequently appear (among others) in the Los Angeles Sentinel Op-Ed section. Visit the author at (213) 220-8101