Wrote this for Thursday's paper. Wanted to share.
Never a bad time for cultural diversity
Maple Heights — I’m proud of Maple Heights.
For three years I’ve covered the best and the worst
the city has had to offer.
Last Thursday, I covered a story which made my heart
swell with pride, sending me home to Akron feeling
excited to have attended a meeting that could actually
The meeting that made me smile as I sipped my coffee
down I-77 was the diversity forum at the Maple Heights
Regional Library March 30 called “Destination Common
It’s not so much what I heard there, but what I saw
that made me feel so good.
I witnessed white senior citizens, most of whom I’m
sure would think Eminem was a chocolate-covered candy
treat, shake hands and smile at young black men
wearing brightly colored jerseys, droopy jeans and
I felt good watching this scene play out in front of
me because I could tell the smiles were for real.
According to facilitator Pat Davis, the night was
intended to break down walls and destroy
misconceptions about race and culture.
If the camaraderie that filled the room was any
indication, it worked.
The group of 40 or so attendees may have started out
from different cultures and races, but at the end of
the evening, after being placed into groups to discuss
various questions about racial perceptions, the groups
blended and seemed to become one.
The only disappointment I felt was that there were not
enough people who attended. Racial walls can be broken
down and diversity taught, but all need to hear the
I suggest everyone attend at least one of the
remaining two diversity forums in April and May.
Misconceptions about cultures and races can sneak up
on you suddenly and without warning.
Almost 18 years ago my sister announced she was
pregnant. She also announced that the father was
At the time I was a Summit County Deputy Sheriff. Most
of the people I dealt with on a daily basis were
I think you can imagine the misconception I had built
I decided I did not want anything to do with my sister
or the baby.
A few months later my sister gave birth to not one,
but two very premature girls. I still had the barrier
up, refusing to go to the hospital to see the twins.
After a long stay in the hospital they were sent home,
but I still kept my distance.
One day I was asked to baby-sit while everyone was
out. I grudgingly agreed. One of the girls began
crying and I, still in my cop shirt, went over to
check on her.
It was a simple procedure. Diaper wet. Diaper needed
Uncle Tim went into action, changing the first of
hundreds of diapers.
But something else also happened.
A little girl, with beautiful wide eyes and long curly
hair, took my pinkie finger in her little hand and
gave me one of the widest smiles I had ever seen.
Instant diversity forum. And the great wall of China
came crashing down.
I was disarmed by a smile, much like the ones I saw
last week. After that, Uncle Tim could not get enough
of the twins. Many times I went to work with baby
drool on my uniform shirt. But I didn’t care. I was a
willing prisoner of their love. Still am.
When Chieanne and Chaundra were old enough to notice a
difference in skin color, I would tell them they were
the color of love.
I would also show them that exactly two spoonfuls of
powdered creamer and two spoonfuls of sugar made Uncle
Tim’s coffee the same color as them.
They liked that.
Now, those girls are my life blood. I could not love
them anymore if they were my very own children.
Uncle Tim realized that it was not the wrappings on
the gift that was important, but what was inside the
And while not every resident can be fortunate enough
to have two wonderful bi-racial angels come into their
lives to show them what diversity is, they can plan to
attend one of the upcoming forums.
Who knows? There may be a resident who finds the gift
of a lifetime inside the wrappings.