Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011 - Getting Along - The Power of One

I held a new hire orientation class on the eve of New Years Eve; so I thought it would be fun as an ice breaker to ask the participants what goals they held for the upcoming new year. The responses were standard: One wanted to lose weight, another wanted to complete an educational goal, a third said she and her husband were trying to have a baby in the upcoming year.
One very quiet new member of our team spoke softly when asked. Of Asian descent, her English words were pronounced carefully and precise; and her accent was strong. She said, "I want people to get along better. That is my wish." When I asked her to elaborate, she told me that when she came to this country about ten years ago, she obtained a job working at an adult education school. A man approached her and asked for directions. She said he spoke too fast, and it was difficult for her to understand him. When she asked him to repeat the question, he looked at her and said, 'Can't you speak English?' She told him that she could, it was just that her English was not that good. He replied, walking away, 'Then you shouldn't be working here.'
She told me she cried that day, and his insensitive comment will always be deeply embedded in her mind. 'It hurt me so much,' she revealed to the class, 'in ways he will never know.' She said, 'It took so much for me to come here, to get here for the opportunities - for work, school, and a better way of living.'
She continued: 'My uncle has been here in the states since 1922. He came as a young man, worked in San Francisco, and was rounded up and jailed for three months during the war, just for being Chinese.'
Curious as to where she was headed with this story, we continued to listen. 'He has seen so much, and is proud to be an American citizen. When I came over here, he told me, Thank God for Dr. (Martin Luther) King Jr. He would tell me over and over that Dr. King's legacy was so significant because he fought for equal rights of every person of color. So this year, I wish for people to recognize that every one has the right to be free from oppression and poverty. I wish for everyone to get along.'

Touched by her heartfelt wish, we all agreed. With 6.8 billion people on the earth, wishing for world peace sometimes sounds futile or lame, but then I thought later, 'It starts with one.' Dr. King, her uncle, Rosa Parks, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, you and me. If everyone could influence one other person, what a difference it would make in the attitudes, comments and the thoughts of others. It would diminish prejudices, and ignorant assumptions that all people of one particular ethnic background are one and the same.'

So this year, for 2011, influenced by a Chinese girl insulted by a white man, but with the foresight to listen and heed the wise words of her Uncle influenced by a Black civil rights leader, I wish for world peace. One person at a time.

Peace, God Bless and Happy New Year.

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