# 358: Diversity’s Gifts
Story behind the Passage
Today, I had the pleasure of moderating an event on diversity. When I say “pleasure,” I mean it, like I basically mean everything I say. So, what I want to say is that it was fun because I felt it was my crowd. Naturally, my crowd consists of people from all kinds of backgrounds; ages, nationalities, religions, professions, academic levels… The thing is, this is actually not so striking, as well all know. In a pluralistic and multicultural world, this is the status quo. Still, many people — either willingly or not — end up not experiencing this diversity in daily life. Sometimes, their job environment is very homogenous. Sometimes, their personal lives are more or less secluded. Whatever the reasons, my personal experience is that in Germany, it is still less common to be in a room filled with people who are “visibly” different in many ways, meaning they wear clothes that are not mainstream, they wear a head scarf, they are internationals, they are mostly women, they are black, queer, and so on.
All these characteristics above are just stereotypes, of course, becase these are labels. If we added the invisible diversity criteria which I usually focus on, we would find out that all of us could constantly participate in diversity conferences because the topic concerns us all. As Roosevelt Thomas, the major pioneer of diversity management once defined, it is “a comprehensive managerial process for developing an environment that works for all employees” (Beyond Race 10). So, we are finally approaching the moment at which people put that into practice; they understand that diversity means being human. It is the natural state of nature. What is different now is the fact that people increasingly decide to not put that underneath some cover. And this is, indeed, an effect of diversity campaigns and measures taken by large organizations — private and public. We are, unfortunately, not at the point yet where we do not even have to talk about it anymore. But maybe we are getting there….
“My life — my personality, my habits, even my speech — is a combination of the books I choose to read, the people I choose to listen to, and the thoughts I choose to tolerate in my mind.” This book, The Traveler’s Gift, found its way to me not just because of the title (I love anything related to travel) but because I remember reading about it somewhere else. It was probably in some management book because it is indeed kind of a self-help book for leadership learning. I remember, I liked reading and it. It combines is a great mixture of fiction and hands-on advice. It is even philosophical and theological, like every good book. The protagonist finds himself in crisis, is psychologically really in a bad shape, then experiences a road accident and travels back in time in his unconscious state to meet all kinds of great people, partly famous ones from politics and even the monarchy, who share their leadership lessons with him.
This piece of advice here in this passage struck me not just because of the colored balloons which represent diversity. I loved how this particular sentence emphasizes the aspect of choice. Just like the books you read, all the people that make a difference to you and your inner growth do not just come from nowhere. You do have the choice to choose diversity over homogeneity; you choose the courage to get to know strangers who are different from yourself and your inner circle over the option of just staying with what and who is familiar. And that, ultimately, as the sentence also shows, changes your thinking, your being, and everything that follows thereafter.
To be honest, events on diversity are a double-edged sword just like any activist endeavor. Of course, these events bring people together who share the same passion and beliefs. You are listening and preaching to the converted. Still, these people are forerunners and they do serve as catalysts for change. And without these innovators, change is impossible. This actually makes me remember another sentence which I heard last week which fits in quite well here. For sure, we do not always know which outcomes can be achieved and which means are proper to achieve the aspired goals. But we know that, if we want to prevent hatred from emerging and discrimination from happening, we need those change agents who transform the status quo into something better. And, this is my “bias,” people who are “diverse” in many ways and who live this diversity instead of hiding it are the ones who combine all the gifts to achieve outstanding results for humanity.
“I do not know if things will get better, when things will change. But things will have to change, if they are supposed to get better.” (Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, my translation)
1) In which way do you consider yourself to be different from most other people around you?
2) Do you agree on the aspect of “choice” as a determining factor for the things that change your life? Why/not?
3) When did you last meet people who were completely different from the regular social environment you usually spend time with? How do you think about the experience?