Published in the January 4-17, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life
By Diana Wood
Like most people, I am not a fan of voluntarily putting myself in uncomfortable positions. However, something was different this time. I felt a pull to cross the street to check on the young man sitting with his head down and looking completely defeated.
As I approached, the full image of his presence revealed he was a soldier and looked as if he had just returned from the field of battle. His fatigues were dusty and sweat laden. His face was an opaque color from dirt smudges. Close by his side was his weapon. My heartbeat accelerated with acknowledgment of this last detail, but it was too late, the man had seen me cross the street and knew I was headed in his direction. His striking brown eyes showed sadness. They looked up only briefly and then returned to the mesmerized focus on the ground immediately below his feet.
I began the conversation: “Excuse me, I couldn’t help notice you sitting here looking a bit beaten by life. Are you okay?”
The man’s response was a polite and respectfully toned: “Yes, ma’am.” There was a bit of a pause, then he asked me, “What is diversity?”
Not expecting this question, I paused for a moment and then answered: “Well, a dictionary would define diversity as a condition of being composed of differing elements. I suspect, based on your attire, you are looking for understanding based on what’s going on in America right now?”
“Hmm,” I pondered. “Diversity means recognizing that each individual is unique in their varied differences. Diversity is best served with the approach symbolized by the icon of Blind Justice with zero judgment. Our eyes should not be drawn to the differences of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs or political beliefs — all should be of no issue. We all have a heartbeat that is blind to our outward appearance. Our hearts should take on the cadence of respect for each other and move beyond tolerance and embrace the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.”
The young man said, “Thank you, ma’am. That’s what I do. I fight for the freedoms to be different and not be judged by those differences.”
“Do you live here in the area?” I asked.
“No, ma’am, I’m on my way home.”
“Arlington, Virginia, ma’am,” he said. “I need to head out now, appreciate your time.”
This conversation story is one that has played out in my mind in the event it were possible to have the opportunity to talk with one of the souls represented in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. There’s much more. However, time is not at my command to continue.
The name of this column is “Transform Your Life.” What does this imagined conversation have to do with transforming your life? Everything. The highest form of leadership is self leadership, which directly speaks to the fact that transformation begins inside of you and me.
I have a note written to myself hanging in my office area that reads: “Want to change your results? Make an appointment in the mirror.”
In 2017 if you make any New Year’s resolutions, consider making an appointment with the person you see in the mirror. Take a pulse check to both your inward and outward approach to diversity. Commit to making adjustments where needed. Map out exact action items addressing any needed adjustments and grab an accountability partner to hold you to your commitment. If no one comes to mind for this duty, contact me. I would be happy to help.
Morgan Hill resident Diana Wood is the president and CEO of Wood Motivation, a certified independent John Maxwell Team coach, speaker and trainer. She can be reached at Diana@woodmotivation.com.