Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Breathing Together

The circle of friends I formed in college was extraordinarily diverse. We had Vietnamese, Filipino, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, black, white, women, men, Indian, Latino, gay, straight, Persian, Chinese, Malaysian, multiracial, international students, “Mayflower” Americans and first-generation Americans – the children of immigrants. The list goes on. The only thing we all for sure had in common was knowing what it feels like to not quite fit in.

Somehow, magically, in the close quarters of our residence hall, we created a space in which no one had to fit a certain mold in order to belong. We remarked on our diversity, even teased each other about having so few friends of our own races/cultures. We debated politics, science, history, faith and ethics over pizza and late night video fests. We found our middle ground, or agreed to disagree. We ate the best of all imaginable food, from every continent and corner of the earth. We pushed each other to excel in academics and extracurriculars. We challenged each other. Most of all, we had fun.

College days seem far behind now. Very far, sometimes. But I still crave that space, where everyone and everything was okay as they were. In this world it is all too rare. Rather than missing what was, though, I prefer to think that this circle has not faded but is only growing wider. I remain in touch with a few of these friends, from whom I first learned that there is so much more joy in starting out different and finding out how you are alike, than the other way around. That sitting in a room together – no matter what the activity – teaches you more than any book or list of facts. It is the simple things that broaden our minds, not the things designed to teach us.

Maybe it is as simple as the sharing of the air…


sally said...

I've grown up with close friends from various backgrounds, which I've always felt is what makes me so sensitive to respecting other people's cultures and experiences. The schools I went to were also very culturally diverse and it seemed the norm for people to interact closely with all sorts of people.

In college, it was different. My school was very divided, and even though I did have a few friends from different cultures, it was mostly just Latinas. I often wish that it would have been different, but I'm not sure of how to fix that problem in bigger schools. Something to think about.

Bethany said...

So many don't have the opportunity, for whatever reason-societal, peer-group, class divide, to sit together and be. It's an important aspect of sharing oneself and one's culture that TWM encourages and an aspect I admire.

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