Let’s build a culture where diversity is celebrated

There are so many things that I love about Calgary but right now I am really thinking about the beauty of its diversity. Close to 25% of Calgary’s population was born outside of Canada. This came to mind because I have been looking for a sari to wear to United Way’s Diwali celebration this week and I thought how wonderful it is that we are such a microcosm of the world. Here we are living in harmony and thriving as one of the most successful cities in the world.

Diwali, also known as the “Festival of Lights,” is a time-honoured Indian cultural festival. It is a tradition that conveys a universal message of hope and peace that transcends all borders and faiths. It is a wonderful opportunity to bring community together and to celebrate our diversity. It’s one example of the many cultural celebrations available to Calgarians throughout the year and I am always thrilled when I participate, because I come away with such a feeling of pride and hope for our future.

In my work I have so many opportunities to build relationships with people and families from around the world. I was blessed with this same opportunity during my years in education here in the city. I am always moved by but not surprised by the reality that we are all the same and we are all different! We all want to be healthy and happy and have what we need to enjoy quality of life. We want our children to do well. We want our friends and neighbours and family to get along. We all want to love and be loved. At the same time we are all different, each with our own story. It reminds me of being one of eight children and recognizing that we are all so different and all special and beautiful in our own way.

Last year before I joined United Way I visited a classroom of Grade 3 students. There were 24 students in the class and they said “good morning” to me in 26 languages. I watched them on the playground later that morning and was overwhelmed by the reality that here in Calgary we are raising a generation of children who look at each other and see their buddies, their friends. They don’t see differences. They learn each other’s languages and learn about each other’s cultures. Their parents get to know each other at school and at the rink or on the soccer fields. What a blessing! I often think that this is the key to world peace; raising children who have been taught to look at each other and appreciate the uniqueness and dignity of every person. What a wonderful gift to give to our children.

They key to making this happen is that as individuals we have to be intentional about building a culture where diversity is celebrated. A culture like this is built through everything we do and say; every look, every comment, every decision. We have such an opportunity and such a responsibility which again makes me hopeful, because Calgarians don’t back away from responsibility.

We are born leaders; it’s in our blood and as we continue to grow and evolve as a city I am confident that we will continue to be a city where people look at us and say, “That’s what it looks like when the best happens!”

—Lucy Miller, President and CEO, United Way of Calgary and Area

Join us on Thursday, November 15, to celebrate Diwali at the Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre from 5 to 9 p.m. United Way is hosting the event in partnership with the India Canada Association of Calgary. Tickets ($12) are available at the door, and include a delicious Indian meal. The Facebook page for the event is here.

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