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Passover/Easter Weekend

If' you're expecting a mini-sermon, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed if you keep reading.

Truth is I wanted to weigh in on diversity for a minute.

There was a period of time when I was younger when that word confused me.

As a boy at barbecues at my Grandma Rosa's house, I observed people who looked like me enjoying each other's company and celebrating the fact that they were different. At the seditty private school I attended, talk of diversity was discouraged 'cause school officials felt it was backhanded way at hinting that there might be other paths to success in life than the narrow path they enforced.

By the time I became an adult - and I'm talking just 18 - I was such a curmudgeon and old beyond my years that if I heard anyone talking about diversity I grew grumpy and would mutter that they should just shut up and quit being hippies - whom I now love, in case you didn't know - and simply get to know the people around them. And that would be all the diversity their lives needed.

Fortunately though, I outgrew that attitude after a few months or a year or whatever, because what I found was if I simply turned to the people who happened to be in my general vicinity the odds were high I was going to encounter a lot of people exactly like me. And there's nothing wrong with being surrounded with people exactly like you. To an extent that's a function of human nature. But it doesn't go very far when you're trying to broaden your knowledge and understanding of how and why other types of people think and act the way they do.

So skip past my "formative" years, if you will, and join me in my reflection of this past Wednesday evening.

I'm Christian. But I have lots of friends who are Jewish. The camaraderie I share with these friends has always been very easy for me to claim though, because it required little effort on my part, save the occasional after work Happy Hour, the occasional dinner, or rubbing elbows at barbecues and cocktail parties.

This year though, a new friend - Dr. Mimi Scott, a pyschologist, actress, and playwright I profiled a couple months ago - invited me to attend her Passover Seder.

After I wrote about Mimi, who lives near Mrs. B and me, she made us honorary members of her brood and has since graciously treated us as though we were her own children, checking in on us by phone several times a week, sharing meals with us, etc.

So with Mimi's invitation I found myself faced with a true friendly gesture: attending a Seder, a religious dinner celebrating Passover and sharing through song and food and wine the Old Testament biblical story of the Jews' exodus from slavery in Egypt.

Suddenly - but just for a moment - my reaction was awe man, do I have to! I admit it. No matter how open-minded we think we are, when it comes to topics like religion there is at least a small part in all of us that generates hesitance when we think we "have" to be a part of an activity that might contradict our beliefs.

Can we help it? I don't know.

Regardless, I scrubbed that bratty thought out of my head almost instantly and I embraced the idea 'cause it was new, 'cause Mimi's a treat to be around, 'cause she has been a friend to me, 'cause over the years I've just become constantly curious about other people's hows and whys, 'cause it was free food...and wine, and 'cause in the short time I've known her Mimi has done nothing small or boring.

So I wasn't disappointed when I arrived at Mimi's Seder to find a crowd more diverse in every aspect of their lives than characters in the board game Clue.

Seriously, among them was the dreadlocked black female blues musician...who sang the Jewish religious songs throughout the dinner. There was the the Cuban-American former Muslim/semi-agnostic guy. There was the Irish-American single mom and her daughter, who both recently converted to Judaism. There was the philanthropist Protestant guy, who has been buying up foreclosed houses in South Florida only to turn right around and rent them for pennies to families in need who recently lost their homes to foreclosure.There was the New Yorker who is also a popular Canadian-newspaper columnist as well as the author of several books, including a cook book based on her travels across the African continent. There was the British expat who is in the process of launching a holistic - mind/body - healing center. There was the young Jamaican man who sat so quietly in the beginning listening to everyone around him, until Mimi called for entertainment after the meal stood and he stood and sang operatic arias in a voice so saintly, he should have been been on stage at the Met, instead of a party room in a Miami-area condo. Dwight, as it turns out, is a young but retired opera singer. There was the young Israeli marketing exec and her husband, who are relatively new to the U.S. and to South Florida.

And so this group from all four corners came together and ate and drink and sing along as best they could as Mimi led us through the Seder.

Gotta say it was one of the most fun times I've had in recent memory. And I walked away from that room with several new friendly acquaintanceships that could blossom to friendships.

And to think, I might have missed it for paranoia over religious differences.

Anyway, my point to all this has nothing to do with religion.

I'm still mulling over exactly what I wanted to get across in this post, but for now let's say that we can stand unwavering by what we believe and still get valuable lessons about life from people who are absolutely nothing like us.

With that, I'm done for the weekend, I think.

Enjoy!

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Jeni Hill Ertmer

I'd say you just made a very, very strong and positive point for the necessity of diversity!
Oh the many things we can learn from others.

The CEO

Good on you, James, good on you.

Pamela

lovely post, James!

C...

same goes for other areas.... in the last few months I have dated several men and though none have been the most impressive each had his own distinct attitude and ideas. I have met men from Cuba, Jamaica, the U.S., Connecticut, Georgia, NY... it's cool to know a diverse group of people and make friends and keep friends... regardless.

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