I think now, more and more families are discovering their own diversity. What does it mean to be a diverse family? How common is it to be a diverse family? Diversity is not just about ethnic differences. Take a careful look at your spouse and children, your children’s spouses, your children’s children. How different are all of you? Here is a checklist. If three or more apply to you, face it, your family is diverse.
• Are you a blended family (A married with couple with children from previous marriages)?
• Is more than one ethnicity present in your family dynamic? (There are five in my family)
• Are their arguments concerning different political ideas?
• Is more than one religious faith represented by members of your immediate family? This can even be different sects within a single faith.
• Are there different genders in your family?
• Are there different sexual orientations in your family?
• Are different levels of education represented in your family?
• Are their sports nuts and bookworms?
• Do your kids have friends of different ethnicities?
Once you begin to really look at the variety within your own home, it’s easy to see how truly diverse your family may be. What are some of the problems with diversity under the same roof or family tree? What are some of the benefits?
One obvious problem is that family gatherings, at some point, will usually include an argument or disagreement. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. In fact, it may be such a normal occurrence it’s only noticed by an outsider. The family just shrugs their shoulders and says, “That’s Joe and Sally, going at it again. They will never convert the other to their cause, but they’ll also never give up trying.” When a family decides to love one another despite these differences, much can actually be gained. Important social and life skills can be acquired in such a family dynamic.
By learning how to disagree agreeably and respectfully, people can grow outside their own box. They can consider possibilities they never would have thought of otherwise. They learn to deal with exposure to issues that cause them to step outside the safety of their comfort zone. They learn how to be vulnerable without be fearful, but, rather, cautious. They learn how to deal with conflict in a healthy way. Most important of all, they are humbled and realize the rest of the world doesn’t revolve around their ideas. This humility leads to tolerance.
What are some of the benefits and pleasures of a diverse family? One thing I enjoy the most with my family is cultural enrichment. I have celebrated Hanukkah and Christmas. I have fasted during Ramadan and hiked the Inca Trail. I have celebrated at a Gay Pride parade and walked in a civil rights march, my skin color outnumbered probably ten to one. I have eaten my share of hamburgers, tamales, latkes, and halal food I can’t even pronounce. I have read the Torah, Koran, King James Version of the Protestant Bible, the Way of the Tao, the Bhagavad Gita, and innumerable other religious and historical texts to help me understand my loved ones better or hone up on my religious argument skills, lest I be left out of the next interesting debate.
Because of such diversity I became multi-lingual. Now, that’s not to say I have actually mastered these other languages. I can converse on the level of a five-year-old in Spanish. I can manage to appear adequate at Temple with what I call my “Synagogue Hebrew”. I can meet and greet in Arabic. I can understand a smattering of Portuguese and French. I can comprehend a little of what I read in German and a little more of what I read in Italian.
I feel emboldened with a desire to explore the world and discover all the cultural richness that inspired these religions and created artful masterpieces and delicious foods. I do not feel discouraged in such exploration because I do not speak the language or have negative stereotypes of different races of people. I am filled with excitement at the thought of getting lost in an ancient city or bustling foreign metropolis. For me, exposure to such diversity has destroyed fear of the unknown and opened up the entire world as a world rich with possibility, all thanks to the diversity of my family.