I was fortunate enough to spend an afternoon with a very diverse group of people today. It did my heart good. After having spent twenty-five years in and around San Francisco, my return to Kansas meant a lot of things, and one of them was diversity withdrawal. To make matters worse, I started my Kansas return in Johnson County, the home of the one-color county color scheme. I used to go down to the Plaza on the weekend once in a while so I could occasionally see people that were a different color than I was.
Lawrence is a little better, thanks mainly to Kansas University. The university has people that consciously work at improving the cultural mix at school, which naturally does the same thing for the little city of Lawrence. Moving to Lawrence, thank goodness, made life a little more interesting culturally. It also made me realize how much I had missed the diversity I enjoyed in the Bay Area.
The world is not completely straight or white, or constrained by the beliefs of people who are. It was nice to spend part of my day in the company of a different set of people, those who were both racially diverse and culturally diverse, in a number of refreshing ways. There were people of many colors and backgrounds, people of different gender persuasions, people of different belief systems, and all of them were almost totally without pretension of any kind.
It is one of the few gatherings that I have been to in Lawrence where I was able to totally relax and just enjoy the people around me. Everyone had a good sense of humor, everybody had something interesting to say, and if anyone was pressing an agenda I missed it. When the world around you seems to be destroying itself with bickering and warfare among what seems like a limitless number of factions, a gathering like this helps to remind us that we can all get along together.
It is not so much the people that have a hard time coexisting, anyway. I don’t think that is ever the cause of too much strife. Most people are innately good. It is the institutions that people invent, and then swear allegiance to, that cause the problems. When people are just being people, and not representatives of institutions, they tend to get along pretty well. It was very nice to have that point brought home to me today. Thanks to the people who made this old white guy feel at home in a field of pleasant otherness today.
It is harder to be a curmudgeon after a great day like that, but I will try to carry on. ;o)