It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength. – Maya Angelou
Maya calls us all to action. If it seems like a boring action. Think again because teaching the beauty and strength of diversity is not only powerful, it’s magical. It was Thomas Berry, an American ecotheologian, who referred to diversity as magic.
The last two months I’ve been a part of youth events where I’ve learned from and shared with students and leaders from the incredibly diverse cultures, backgrounds, and ethnicity. I’m learning that diversity is great magic indeed.
Why? Because God created each of us, breathed life into us, gave us 23 pairs of unique chromosomes that make every person their own person, so that in every life there could be another life-changing opportunity to know the Creator MORE.
Sounds like magic to me.
Sounds like a great reason to love and protect others with the same effort that we love and protect ourselves, our own family, our own people.
Because when you look at diversity as perfection, as the revealing of the image of God, then every different person becomes your person, your people, your own.
The greater the diversity… in all areas of our lives and relationships…the greater the perfection.
Even when crisis rocks a nation. Even when economic contexts hurt each other. Even when nations fight against each other. Even when we don’t “get” each other. Even when we have no words to explain the grief humans feel when love isn’t the language being spoken. Even then, we can be believe that embracing the difference in each other will lead to greater beauty, strength, and knowledge of God.
Two weeks ago my husband and I were speaking at a youth event in Ohio. We went to this particular event together as a family. (I never take that set up for granted. We’re GRATEFUL when event leaders invite all four of us, there’s nothing better than getting to serve with together.)
Within the first few hours, our oldest child was asking us if she could be at greeter at the doors. She wanted something to pass out to the hundreds of students walking into the building; she was drawn to meeting ALL of them and began talking to different leaders in charge, networking, and trying to figure out a way to make it happen.
That wasn’t the case for our youngest. She quietly followed us around, watching what we did and then asked me at the end of the night “mommy, are a speaker? Are you famous?” I told her I was a speaker and didn’t think I was famous. She replied, “I want to learn to play the drums.”
I love kid logic.
She was telling me, I’m watching what you love to do and now I’m thinking about what I would love to do. She didn’t feel any pressure to want to be like me. She wanted to be like herself.
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
If only we could want to be like ourselves forever! Sometimes I wish puberty, and peer pressure, and public opinion could be something we coach instead of letting it coach us. It’s like once the pressure and public opinion start to coach and confine us, we feel like we can never fire it. But we can. We can fire the censors and hire diversity and love instead.
In a way our kids hired the band that was hanging out in the green room to coach them over the weekend. And the band members were super great about listening, and just leaning into our kids big little personalities.
Mya drew maps and instructions for everyone to be able to do whatever they do best. She also drew a sharpie hand tattoo of Yoda on one of the band members.
Kirra kept busy learning everyone’s names and telling as many stories as she could. She was imagining what her role would be at events like that someday. She was making plans.
The drummer of the band was Jeremy “B-Wack”. I met B-Wack about 10 years ago at National Youth Worker’s convention. Fun little side story, we had dinner together with some mutual friends, my husband, and Arnold Schwarzenneger (I mean, sitting a few tables away still counts as having dinner together, even if a few secret service people stood in between us.) It was that night that my friends decided I should write a book about my life as a festival queen. We all laughed at the thought and parted ways. We’ve all journeyed a long way since and it’s fun to see how our lives intersect again.
I wrote that book and a few more. And B-Wack continued his journey with the David Crowder Band, then with the DIGITAL AGE, created a robot band member/person (yes I believe it is an actual person that just happens to know how to be a robot) named Steve3PO, and now he and his band (Mike, Mark, and Jack), and we and our family, were working together at the same youth event.
My kids didn’t know any of this history. My daughter didn’t care, you may not care either. The point is, she liked B-Wack (and Mike, Mark, and Jack) for the people they were that day, and she wanted to know more about his ability to play the drums, and their willingness to sit through sharpie tattoos. Their responses said, you are interesting and you are worth getting to know.
Their responses gave our timid Mya courage. Mya whispered in my ear. “Can he (pointing to B-Wack)show me how to play the drums?”
I told her we could ask, and when I did, she hid her face in my shirt.
After the event was over, B-Wack, a quiet until he gets behind the kit kind of guy, waited for Mya and for the room to clear. And when she was ready, he had her jump on the stool for her first little lesson.
As I watched her light up in that moment, saw her smile when the kids who were still lingering in the room cheered for her, I knew that this part of Mya was different and special and so “her”. This will be the part that plays the background then surprises you with the beat. Whether she ends up playing the drums or not. I can’t wait to get to know more of that part of her.
My girls are so very different.
So, I’m passionate about my kids being valued for their differences, I think it’s because I know them, and love them.
And I think this is the clue for us to value and teach diversity too.
It’s up to us to be intentional about getting into places where we can get to know, love, and be loved by those who are different than us. It’s a process of giving and receiving. It’s about being open to receive.
Not only do we have to seek it out, but we have to be humble.
If we’re looking around and seeing mainly people who look like, act like, think like us, can we at least challenge ourselves to change something and find a way to be curious about the God who created all of us who is revealed even more in our differences?
For some of us, we’ve not had a lot of opportunity to experience diversity. But if you begin to look for it, truly go after it, and hope to receive it, you will find it. And it will give you a glimpse of a part of God you would never be able to see otherwise.
There is magic in diversity.
The Digital Age values diversity and it shows (they are passionate about serving the Church all over the world and passionate about serving the Church in our little green room two weeks ago), we are so grateful for their example and friendship.
Here’s a fun little video of Mya’s first lesson with B-Wack.
And, the photo used for this post is a picture of my incredible friend in youth ministry, Sasha. She is Russian. I am an American. And we were learning about what it means to love and serve others in Turkey. In light of the worlds recent events, I feel like moments like this are the sample of hope that is being born in the dark, the hope that leads us to believe that we don’t have to live in fear, or homogenously.
“Diversity is the magic. It is the first manifestation, the first beginning of the differentiation of a thing and of simple identity. The greater the diversity, the greater the perfection.”
~ Thomas Berry