I grew up in a culturally diverse neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the 1970's, 80's, and 90's. I learned early on to appreciate the Spanish language, Cuban and Puerto Rican cooking, rap, hip-hop, and pen pals from around the world. Even at a mostly Caucasian university, I quickly made friends with my Ethiopian roommate and the international students I met through her. Being cross-cultural is part of who I am. But since moving to a Philadelphia suburb over a decade ago, I haven't had many opportunities for diversity, or so I thought.
At Zumba class this morning, as I exercised to salsa and hip-hop music with young and old; African-American, Asian, Hispanic, and Caucasian; fit and ready-to-be-fit, it hit me. This group of unique and valuable individuals had always been there. But I was so busy with my own circle of like-me people, I hadn't taken the time to know or appreciate them. I had neglected to seek out diversity.
Sure, our paths may have never crossed except for this common goal of fun and fitness. How sad that would be. Because recognizing our differences and learning from each other (yes, some of us do Zumba with more soul than others), helps us appreciate the commonalities that connect us as a community.
There is something beautiful about appreciating the wide world around us. We don't have to be the same, nor should we be, to belong. We can grow alongside and encourage each other anyway, coming together for common purposes.
I'm ashamed it took me over ten years to rediscover this. But I may never look at Zumba or life the same way again.