June 3, 2010

Savor the flavor of new perspectives…

Posted in Between Us column, Diversity at 3:41 am by dinaheng

I’ve been on a baking kick with sweet breads lately, making loaves of lemon blueberry and banana chocolate chip.

Like yoga, the process of baking forces you to be totally in the moment.  If you don’t put in the right measurement of baking powder, the bread won’t rise; too much grated lemon, and mouths will pucker.

I love the chemistry of putting different ingredients together to create something delicious, and experimenting to see if different variations will create something even yummier.

If only people would look at interacting with others the same way.

Most of us prefer spending time with like-minded folks, who many times also look like us. Usually, we have a common cultural background, common interests and a common language, which makes for easier conversations.

If we’re a little adventuresome, we seek out interaction with people who look like us, but may not think in accord with us all the time. We learn a little, argue a little, and maybe grow a little in some areas of our lives.

Those who have a bit of the explorer gene in us will look for new friends outside our cultural comfort zone. We enjoy meeting people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, we like trying new foods, and we’re less likely to judge those who are different because we’re often considered the oddball in our own families.

There are also the explorer types who are as judgmental as those who have never ventured far. They look down on the homebodies who disagree with them as being narrow-minded and provincial, and extol the virtues of other cultures, perhaps because they’d rather not deal with their own families at home.

The truth is, we’re all a little narrow-minded and provincial. We like having our opinions, and don’t like being pushed to examine them because we fear we’ll have to change our behavior if we admit we are wrong about something.

At the same time, the more we open the door to new people in our lives, the more interesting our lives will become. With new people come new shared experiences, new joys, new dislikes, and new arguments. Interesting, of course, does not necessarily mean easy.

What gets easier, over time, is understanding that just because we disagree about something doesn’t mean we don’t care about the other person. If anything, the more we care about someone, the freer we are to disagree, because we know that no matter what we say, the other will still love us for who we are.

I love meeting people who have different perspectives from mine. I don’t like being around those who want to argue for argument’s sake, but an interesting conversation to me is like making a good sweet bread. You throw together different viewpoints to see what wonderful new ideas may emerge.

And when all is said and done, you savor the flavor of friendship.

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