This summer, my family and I went on a very enjoyable and educational week-long vacation to our nation’s capital. Washington D.C. is full of interesting museums, towering monuments, and grand memorials, and while I learned a great deal at these places, the most intriguing lesson of the week came from a surprising source: the sidewalks.
You have to do A LOT of walking in this bustling city because the traffic is so heavy that it is actually slower (and much more frustrating) to drive everywhere. Most people recognize this, and thus, the sidewalks are crowded with swarms of busy tourists and city dwellers. While I was slightly surprised by the sheer number of people, I was much more stunned by the incredible amount of variety around me. It seemed like every other person spoke a different language or was of another ethnicity or religion. I passed by monks, nuns, Amish families, Indians in their traditional and non-traditional clothing, Muslims, European teenagers, excited Chinese tourists, people from Egypt, African Americans, Hispanics, homosexual couples, heterosexual couples, atheists, Christians, the poor, the rich, old veterans, playful children, individuals of Native American ethnicity. You name it, and I most likely saw it. This was an extremely different world from my home of West Omaha, a place where it seems like nearly 95% of the population in white and middle-class. Therefore, I was fascinated by the diversity around me. I wanted to take in every second, and I enjoyed, more than almost anything else on the trip, watching and learning about the different walks of life.
My observations on the sidewalks of D.C can be perfectly embodied by a phrase from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby. While looking through the windows of all of the New York apartments in his sight, the narrator states that there is an “inexhaustible variety of life.” How true this is! Not only are there thousands of different religions, spoken languages, ethnicities, careers, and social classes, but there is also a ton of variety within these groups. For example, two middle-class, white, Christian, and English-speaking nurses could end up having completely different personalities, interests, and values. In fact, even members of the same family can be quite distinct. This is because everyone has their own story. Different genes, life experiences, decisions, and people shape each one of us into a unique individual.
As I observed the inexhaustible variety of life on vacation, I began to realize the beauty of the differences between people. Throughout history, we have let these differences divide us, but when we embrace them and live in peace, the result is wonderful! Different perspectives, values, art, music, clothing, languages, sports, and customs combine to create a more vibrant and prosperous humanity. In fact, this is not only true for humanity! Variety makes everything more beautiful! I would much rather have a multi-colored quilt than a monochromatic one, and similarly, I would much rather live a life with some spontaneity and surprise than a life with an unchanging routine, where each day is alike.Even though the human race is full of abundant diversity, it is important to point out that at the core, we are not vastly different. Genetically, we are 99.9 percent identical, and even though we each have distinct stories, we have many shared life experiences! Life and death, love and pain, joy and despair. These are the inevitabilities of human life. Thus, we are similar despite our many differences, and we can work together and accept each other. It is possible. We must look at people, no matter how different, and view them as fellow human beings, each with a story to tell. We must try to understand one another, and we must try to love one another, even if we don’t always agree and even when it seems difficult. This is how we can reach our full potential and make the world a more beautiful place