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  • Kimberley Guillemet

“The bond of our common humanity is stronger than the divisiveness of our fears and prejudices.”

President Jimmy Carter ¹


We recently took our daughters and nieces to a dude ranch in Arizona. In deciding to move forward with the vacation, my husband and I agreed that we were taking a risk, and that we were going to be stepping completely outside of our comfort zones in going on this adventure. After all, none of us had been to a dude ranch before and had been wholly born, raised, and socialized in urban environments. We knew not what we would encounter. I certainly had some reservations about how we might be received, but this looked like it could be a tremendous experience for the girls. Ultimately, we decided not to self-select out because of fear.


Upon our arrival at the ranch, we found the staff to be warm and welcoming. In taking in our surroundings, we noticed that we were the only people of color on the ranch and were able to surmise that the majority of guests likely lived a very different existence than we did. From ethnic background, to politics, to regional representation, we were very different from everyone else that was present. All of that notwithstanding, a beautiful thing happened during our time at the dude ranch: we connected with our fellow humans, despite our differences. One of my nieces developed an unlikely friendship with an older former military octogenarian from North Carolina. Another one of my nieces developed a friendship with a girl much younger than she from Lansing, Michigan. One of my daughters met a young lady who shared her unusual name, who had a completely different background and upbringing than she did. And yet another one of my daughters learned how to wrangle a miniature horse from a little girl from Ohio.


Whatever concerns we had about how our family would be received were completely assuaged early on. We not only benefited from the connections we made with people who were very different from us, but we know that we edified others through our presence at the ranch.


It is natural for humans to want to stay in protective cocoons, and to not venture too far outside our comfort zones into terrain that might seem unfamiliar. After all, when we go into uncharted territory, we open ourselves up to the unknown. As parents, we want to protect our children and avoid exposing them to experiences that might be harmful to them. But when we live in a way that prioritizes risk aversion over all else, we can miss out on living. Our self-insulation can work so well that we can become detached from other humans and forgo experiences that diverse human interaction can bring.


At this moment in our nation's history, where we find ourselves at the height of division and separation, I implore us all to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones and extend a hand across the aisle. We are all more similar than we know. And if we sit in judgment of one another and prevent ourselves from loving each other, we will miss prime opportunities for connection and growth.


 

¹ President Jimmy Carter, a Caucasian Southerner with a military background, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his work to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts and to advance democracy and human rights of all people. His life and his legacy are prime examples of the importance of cross-ethnic connection and allyship.


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