I Believe in a World Enriched by Our Differences

October 14, 2011
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When I was younger, I did not think I was different. I thought I was the same as everyone else. I didn’t
notice that my playmate was blonde, that my skin was darker, another playmate’s eyes were blue, mine were
hazel. I didn’t notice that my nose was different. I thought I was just like everyone else, and I wanted to be just
like everyone else. But I was not at all like everyone else. I was different after all. I eventually wanted to be
different from the rest. I had to have the shirt no one else had, although I craved for other things other kids had.
Same brand, different designs. I soon learned and understood that not only was I set apart because of the things I
had, but I was also different because I am of Filipino-American Heritage.

I grew up in a home tolerant of other people’s differences. We never judged according to one’s race, or
culture, or beliefs. Certainly not based on anyone’s religion. Instead, having grown up in a home made up of so
much diversity in culture and personality, I grew up believing that I live in a world where differences are
appreciated. My heritage is a rich one. A mixture of the Spanish culture brought by the Spanish conquerors, the
Hollywood mentality of the Americans who colonized us after 400 years of Spanish rule, the Chinese culture
brought by the Chinese traders, and the rich culture of the Malay race of Southeast Asia. We continue to be a
mixed people, living among those who are different from us. In the US, I am considered a minority, with my
Filipino heritage and because I look undoubtedly Filipino. I believe that I contribute to the continued development
of the American culture with what I can share from my culture as a Filipino who is also an American.

I believe that our world is enriched by our differences. I believe that we learn from the diversity of our
cultures and our backgrounds. I believe that such differences in our beliefs inspire critical thinking and debate, just
as we may now debate on what we all believe in and whether we agree with each other or not. It is the
differences in ideas that have inspired many inventions, and have also inspired the improvement of inventions that
came before us.

Tolerance is a word often used. It is defined as a “fair, objective, permissive attitude toward opinions and
practices different from one’s own.” I believe it encompasses differences in religion, race, culture, and many other
differences that would define an individual. But I believe in pushing it a little farther. As they say, “Let’s kick that
up a notch!” Not only must tolerance encompass all of the above, but it must bring with it a genuine curiosity for
such differences, and a genuine desire to learn about someone else’s beliefs and opinions. Because tolerance
must bring with it Respect. Tolerance inherently includes respect for the opinions, beliefs, culture, orientation, etc.
that are different from one’s own. Only when we strive to learn and understand such differences do we truly
respect it. Only when we strive to understand the logic behind certain beliefs, the basis for certain statements, or
why certain topics cause such a stir, are we able to truly respect and appreciate another person’s difference from
us. When we add to our knowledge about other peoples’ cultures, we widen our horizons and understand their
beliefs, their customs and traditions, their songs, dances, legends, and writings. We understand and marvel at how
a person’s heritage is affected by where he lives, how food is made to adapt to the environment in which other
people live, how socio-economic factors affect individuals and groups of people, and how history may shape the
future. When we understand diversity, we avoid wars and conflict. Instead, we seek a resolution.

They said the world is a big place to live in. I think it’s small. There’s nothing wrong with that. With the
population growing daily, our space shrinks every day. Though small, the world is made up of individuals, each
person different from another. Never is there to be one set of beliefs that is exactly the same as another. That
makes the world seem even more crowded, doesn’t it? But each individual brings something to learn about,
something we can all be curious about, something to marvel upon. These individuals all have something to
contribute to the richness of the fabric that make up the story of our world.

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