Life is absurd. And life is precious. Family is a lot of both.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Con List

*originally published in the Weston Chronicle on January 23, 2013.

I have written this column for the Weston Chronicle for almost a year now in order to share what I love about this place. There are many reasons why we chose to make Weston our hometown, but it was not an easy decision for a military family with 10 moves on the books to consider any one city right enough to settle forever. It’s coming up on two years that we’ve been back and there are no regrets (though we’d sure love a little more snow—but that’s a different column).

As with any big decision, part of the discussion process involved a pro and con list. Top of our con list for Weston: the lack of diversity. This generated at the top of our list not due to political correctness, but as a result of 21 years of the military lifestyle. The United States Army was the first public institution to fully integrate and so, by the time we got there in 1990, diversity was no longer a topic for committees and special educational programs. It was simply a no-brainer. Diversity was everywhere. Our oldest three children spent their formative years daily surrounded by teachers and students and neighbors from all over the world with different colors of skin, religions, socio-economic backgrounds, and national heritages.

No one gave it a second thought when a female African-American co-worker came over for dinner or that dad’s boss had a different color of skin. Child #5’s godmother is a darling woman of Korean descent with broken English, a killer kimchi recipe, and the sweetest hugs around. While looking through old pictures of Child #2’s 10th birthday sleepover party, we discovered that hers is the only white face in the crowd of five little girls. Is it strange that we never noticed that at the time? Child #1 departed last week for a semester abroad in Africa. We’d like to think that part of her motivation for studying other languages and experiencing other cultures is that she knows how small the world really is and how much we have to learn from each other. But mostly we’d like to think she learned from the beginning how very much alike we all are.

Which brings me back to our con list. It certainly was not that we thought Weston was a town of fearful racists or religious bigots. Hardly! Some of the biggest hearts and brightest minds we’ve ever met were born and raised right here. It was more that we knew it would be much harder to teach our younger kids about their place in the world if they were always surrounded by people just like them.

Yet here we are living in this very intelligent, very warm, very ambitious, yet very homogeneous community. How will we impart the same empathy and worldliness to our younger three kids that our older three absorbed so easily and so early? We are still working that out.

One thing we will do is talk about the con list. No place will be perfect, we tell our kids, and you are no better or worse or smarter or more special than a child on the other side of the world. Or the other side of the tracks. Do we want our kids to succeed in the global economy? Absolutely. The better they learn that we have way more that links us than separates us, the better it will be for whatever career and community they choose to call home one day.

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