It seems like the word “diversity” appears almost daily in our news publications. I’m puzzled as to why we keep discussing this topic. Our world is no longer centered in the small town in which we live. We are a global society with a global economy, which means we need to be able to get along with others different than ourselves.

We buy from the Chinese, we sell to the French – and vice versa. We don’t question the gender, nationality or religion of those who desire to purchase what we produce. We’re just happy that someone wants to buy what we sell.

I just returned from a vacation that took me to Alaska. While Alaska is one of the 50 states that make up the United States, there were many times that I felt like I was in a foreign country.

  • The harsh weather causes their population to be very sparse as compared to the land mass they occupy.
  • Their infrastructure is dictated by the number of residents. Fewer residents mean fewer roads and less infrastructure.
  • Native Alaskans do not look like people who live in small towns throughout the Midwest.
  • Housing, food, fuel and merchandise are much more expensive there than on the mainland, due to high transportation costs.
  • The majority of homes do not have indoor plumbing.
  • Most homes have to truck in water.
  • Some residents can reach their homes only through seaplanes.
  • If you want to catch the train, there is no need to go to the train station – just stand next to the tracks and flag one down.
  • Drinks are served without ice – unless requested. Maybe it’s because everything is so darn cold, they don’t feel the need to make it colder.

Alaska was very different from Kentucky. And while the Bluegrass State is quite beautiful, the natural beauty of Alaska was incredible. The pictures I took could not do justice to the scenery I saw. Even the people who were not full-time residents, but were just there for the “summer season” were different. They were brave pioneers – willing to just pick up and move to Alaska because of it’s beauty.

Many of the young people we met left their homes to be in the Alaskan wilderness to act as guides, cruise ship employees, shop clerks and servers. They love Alaska – not enough to live there in the winter, but they enjoy the outdoor opportunities available in the last wilderness during the “season”. And, when the season is over, they pick up and go somewhere else exciting. I think they are very brave and adventuresome. They are different than I was at that age.

So, Alaska was different, which is another way of saying diverse. It doesn’t mean it was better and it doesn’t mean it was worse – it was just different. It provided a different experience, from which I learned a lot.

Chocolate ice cream is different from strawberry ice cream and some may prefer one flavor over the other, but I don’t know too many people who would pass up an ice cream cone, no matter what flavor it was.

Differences may provide viewpoints and life experiences that are not familiar – language that is strange to our ears. However, there is much to be gained in developing diverse relationships. Your business can thrive when new ideas are put forth. Your palate may discover that it really enjoys the flavor of curry. Learning a new tradition can add new life to your holidays. Different can be good!

About Debbie Simpson

President of Multi-Craft in Newport, Kentucky.
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