Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Our Strength Is In Our Differences

A week ago, someone asked what I love about Norristown. A dozen things popped into my head--our history, our architecture . . . . We have a zoo AND a bandshell. How many towns can say that?

Then it hit me--what I love most about Norristown is our diversity.

I once worked for a corporation where almost all my coworkers came from homogenous communities, from schools that were overwhelmingly white and Protestant. One coworker told me she was never sure how to talk to the one black woman in our office, for fear of offending her. Another coworker told me she'd been taught that Catholics weren't Christians.

All I could think hearing comments like that was, thank God I grew up in Norristown.

I'm not saying we were, or are now, a model peaceable kingdom. We had racial clashes at times in school, but for the most part, our cliques were more along the lines of music and theater geeks versus jocks. I love it now when a Facebook friend posts a photo with a caption like "Met up with my old teammates at my Norristown high reunion," and the faces in that photo come from all different backgrounds.
NAHS, class of '73

Growing up here, I not only had black friends, but friends from diverse religions. I was raised Italian Catholic, yet had the chance to go on youth retreats with a Reformed Church friend, and to Friday night teen gatherings at Central Pres. My Girl Scout troops met at Asbury Methodist and Norristown Schwenkfelder. My neighborhood was near the Jewish Community Center, so I had Jewish neighbors and friends. I've been to Hanukkah celebrations and Passover seders. And of course, many weddings and funerals, black and white, Catholic, Protestant, even Wiccan. I have Muslim cousins. And in the last few years, new Latino neighbors and fellow church-goers.

I think Norristown children, having been exposed to people of many different backgrounds, graduate school with a broader view of society, and perhaps better tools for dealing with future coworkers. It's healthy.

I know we still have some people in this town who'd rather divide us using race or religion. In fact, I've met more of them since I started this blog. I think it's time the rest of us shout them down.

Diversity can be our greatest strength in overcoming Norristown's problems. We all have something in our backgrounds to contribute. We just have to find a way to get together.

1 comment:

  1. Elena Great Post as always I too feel very blessed growing up in Norristown with our rich Diversity. Over the years I have found that it's not the resident that create the separation of race, I see the Government as a catelas for keeping racism alive.