In the Minority

August 7, 2012 at 7:43 am | Posted in Life and Living | Leave a comment
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This past weekend, I attended a festival in a nearby city.  The city happens to have a majority Latino population, so the highlighted acts at the show mainly spoke to that population.  I was ducking in and out of the festival, wandering around the main street of the town, checking things out and looking for a little something to eat and it hit me really hard.  Oh my God, I am in the minority.  This is weird.

As I walked around I could feel people staring at me, not judging me, but knowing that I did not belong.  The town comes alive at night with people coming in from all over to go to the delicious restaurants the town boasts, but during the day, it’s just the locals and if you aren’t a local, you stick out like a sore thumb.

In my daily life, my ethnicity is always questioned.  Since I’m light skinned with dark features I am asked if I’m Latino, Portuguese, or Italian.  In this town, they knew I wasn’t Latino, so they jump right to Italian.  Either way, I wasn’t one of theirs.

It’s not that I didn’t feel welcome, I just felt different.  It made my think of my own upbringing.  I attended school in a town where the majority was white — Italian, Irish, and Jewish.  I always had Asian and Latino friends growing up and I never really thought much about it.  There were a few black kids in my school, but only enough to count on my fingers.  One day in 4th grade, one of the black kids asked me if one of my friends was black.  I was caught off guard and confused.  The friend in question was Dominican, but it was the first time I had been confronted directly with the idea that we aren’t all “the same”.

So I started thinking about how the minority tries to fit in with the majority — you know that one person who hangs out with the majority even though he or she is the minority — how does that person feel?  Does that person ever feel like he/she belongs, or will he/she always stand out?

And I knew the answer.  Because I had been there on a smaller scale, being the only Jew amongst a crowd of Italians.  You will always be different, but you can still be comfortable.  Because we’ve come a long way on the path to acceptance, but you never want to forget what makes you different, what makes this world so colorful.

Walking in someone else’s shoes showed me that.

My Judgment-Free Zone

April 14, 2011 at 7:26 am | Posted in Friends Then and Now | Leave a comment
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All throughout my life, I have befriended a diverse group of people.  I was never attracted to one specific “type” of person when it came to friends and I enjoyed learning from people with different perspectives, personalities, backgrounds, strengths and weaknesses.  But there is one trait that I have always been attracted to.  It’s a combination of modesty and acceptance that creates my judgment-free zone.

Everyone needs friends who won’t judge them.  I know this sounds ridiculous because everyone judges everyone, but sometimes you just don’t want to be judged.  My friends often turn to me as the person they can tell anything to, no matter how obscene it may seem, because I do not judge.  People do lots of crazy things. It’s all part of living.

I have friends who have some really great things going for them. That’s not to say that I don’t.  I have friends who work really hard so that they can afford the lifestyle they want to lead.  They live in nice apartments, drive nice cars, wear expensive clothes.  These are things that were never my top priority, but they are theirs, and I am okay with that, and they are okay with me in my average apartment, average car, average clothes.  This lifestyle doesn’t get in the way of us being friends.  I also have friends that are extremely smart, but that will never make you feel stupid.  And of course I have friends who have family money and can afford a lot more than I can.

These are friends that I know I can trust.  Beyond the fact that they accept me for who I am (and I, them), they exhibit an admirable amount of modesty.  They don’t hide who they are but they don’t show off either.

Let’s face it — it’s easy to feel like you have to compete with your friends, and in some ways it is healthy. But competition can destroy a relationship.  What keeps friendships strong are mutual respect, acceptance, and a little bit of modesty. No need to show off. Your friends know how great you are.

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