When I was about 12 I started my international sand collection. A friend was traveling to Hawaii and wanted to bring me a souvenir. A bottle of sand seemed to be the perfect gift—afterall, no sand is like any other! I treasured that vile of tiny granules because they connected me to a place that I had never been. This sand had traveled across oceans to meet me.
My journeys to other Asian countries provided opportunities to expand my sand collection. When more friends realized that my taste in gifts was free of cost, they offered more tokens of sand from distant lands. Now I have in my collection sand from places I’ve never been like south Mexico and Malibu and it’s always open for more contributions!
When my bottles are all stacked together like delegates at the UN, it’s beautiful to see the differences. Some are course, others fine; some contain odd shell fragments, others are uniform; some are dark, others light. If I were to mix them all together, they would lose their distinctiveness, so I choose to keep them in separate bottles, but grouped together for interest and comparison.
Some folks refer to the United States of America as a melting pot. I’d like to differ. Anyone who has traveled to more than one corner of any large American city must admit that the smells, languages, mannerisms, and dress of our micro-communities are still representative of their national origins. And why would we want it any other way! I’d rather keep my Thai, Indian, Japanese, Italian, and American comfort foods separate, thank you very much. I don’t think they’re very tasty all mashed together.
“A Native [American] man once said about Native people and their place in this supposed culturally homogenized melting pot, ‘Whatever it is that Indian people are made out of, we don’t melt too easy.’”* I think the same can be said of many of the beautiful cultural groups who have made their homes in this vast land.
Let’s ditch the melting pot and welcome the smorgasbord or the salad! Instead of pretending we’re all the same, let’s celebrate the differences that make the world such a beautiful and diverse place!
*Quotation from “One Church Many Tribes” by Richard Twiss (p38)