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Lesson 54: Cherish diversity

Variety is the spice of life.

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One of the many interesting aspects of the early teenage psyche is the desire to be as much as possible exactly like the other members of their peer group. At a time when the young person is just beginning to create her own unique identity, the overwhelming need is to fit in. This tendency shows up in everything from clothes to hairstyles to vocabulary.

In that environment, different is considered bad. In the eyes of a young teenager, anyone who is unique is an object of criticism and derision.

But as you have no doubt learned, different is not necessarily bad. In fact, diversity can be a great source of strength. Youve certainly learned this if youve gone off to college. Perspectives broaden, opinions evolve, and stereotypes melt away as you meet new people and discover different ways of looking at things.

Everyone knows that America is a melting pot. Our nation is a unique blend of nationalities, ethnic groups, religions, languages, and cultures, all of which combine to create a unique and vibrant culture of our own. There are times when its not pretty, when groups pit themselves against one another. But youll probably agree that our countrys diversity is one of its greatest strengths.

Okay, so how does this apply to you personally? As you go through life each day, diversity will be all around you, and it will show up in a variety of ways. Youll be bombarded with different personalities, opinions, attitudes, and points of view.

Resist the temptation to simply reject any of this. Youll never meet anyone who wont have something to teach you, if you just pay attention. They may change your point of view on a subject, challenge an assumption, or give you a new way to look at something. Youll certainly learn how another person acts, thinks, or looks at the world.

At the very least, youll be entertained by the amazing patchwork of human existence surrounding you. Even better, youll learn how to relate to and get along with a wide variety of people. And you might just get a little smarter in the process.

Excerpted from The Graduates Book of Practical Wisdom: 99 Lessons They Cant Teach in School by C. Andrew Millard, published by Morgan James Publishing, available in bookstores and online. &opy; 2008 by C. Andrew Millard; all rights reserved. For more information visit www.wisegraduate.com.~ Advice for Young Adults written by Andy Millard