2017-02-02 / Viewpoint

Variety is the spice of life

Paula Schmidt — Staff Writer

When I first started working at Hurley, in 1998, one of the first things I had to do was attend “diversity training”. Being a teaching hospital, Hurley had students from all over the world in their residency program and if you aren’t used to it, cultural variety can cause conflicts, so they were being proactive. At some point I probably mocked the necessity of it—but not because I didn’t believe in it, but because I didn’t understand the necessity of it.

You see, being nice to other people is how I had been raised. My foster mom loved everyone— and taught us to do so too. One of my foster brothers was disabled, although I don’t recall ever using the word—he had his own business at 16. My foster sister was a victim of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and although teased at school, it was never called out at home in any way.

We just didn’t make fun of people and it’s hard for me to understand those that do. I had my share of being bullied by others, and still the world hasn’t unlearned this primal behavior of casting out the “different” based on what I hear and see these days.

I admit to being a soft-hearted, hippie liberal (even though I’m a gun owner). Some people say we should stop making kids weak and sensitive and to a certain extent this is true—I was raised to be tough and solve my own problems — but it’s not always possible. Like the variety we see in nature, we have been made with a diverse assortment of personalities — some of which are emotional and sensitive. These people tend to be the artists of our world and are as varied as anything else.

“Art is much less important than life, but what a poor life without it,” said Robert Motherwell, an American painter. I don’t believe many people would argue that, as we all enjoy some form of art, and it’s often created by those who “aren’t so tough”.

I write—which is one form of art, but I can’t paint. Nor can I cut a straight line with an electric saw, or sell things to people who need them, or work on a factory line building the same part hour after hour.

The fact is we all have different skills, and the people who need those skills find them valuable, because they can’t do them. This is an example of valuing each member of society for what they bring to the table—even if it is ‘different’; and teaching our young children to value difference too.

Far too many people tell others to “just get over it”, but as a culture we sadly lack the ability to embrace difference. The world is full of variety and it isn’t going to conform to your ideals, whatever they are. Not accepting this is a throwback to survival instincts and this isn’t that world anymore.

We are never going to be a healthy society until we recognize this. pschmidt@mihomepaper.com

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