Celebrate this community and help it grow

Published 9:21 pm Friday, November 13, 2009

This is part two of a month-long column examining things for which we should all be grateful this Thanksgiving.

Now one month into my life here, I have witnessed people in this community banding together to help rebuild the vandalized Habitat for Humanity house, discussing honest issues at school board working sessions and voicing their concerns to me, my voicemail and this newspaper.

So, I am thankful for this community. From a distance, life in Selma sounds completely different than the day-to-day things I have experienced. When I accepted an interview at this paper, I remember sitting at the table at my house, skeptical of the idea of living in Selma. What was there to do in Selma? Didn’t something happen there that was in my history book? Even driving on Broad Street, on my way to my interview, I still was not set on the idea of a life here.

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But Selma has a way of slowly unveiling its characteristics. Within the one full day of interviewing, looking at an apartment and eating lunch with two people from the office, my earlier skepticism had worn completely away. Nothing overtly exciting happened and no one tried to extravagantly sway my thoughts about this place. It just grew on me.

This community has such a rich history, but that’s just what it is—history. Each day things change, and so I challenge each of is to be proactive in our shaping of this community. We must not be afraid of diversity, but rather help it to develop. This town has been influential in historical events, and it should remain a stepping-stone for future changes.

We are the same in 99 percent of our genetic makeup, with less than one percent determining skin tone. Why let this miniscule difference consume so much of our preconceived notions about one another? Children don’t even comprehend skin color until the ago of three, and the only reason they associate any ideas with skin is from what we teach them.

Changing our interactions with one another doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. All it takes are small steps. Start with actually smiling at the person you pass on your way into the grocery store or make conversation, about things other than the weather, with the person behind you in line.

Stereotypes develop when large groups of people act in a similar manner. I also challenge you to find ways to break the stereotypes hindering you, and be open to learning that the stereotypes lingering in the back of you mind may be as incorrect as the ones placed upon you. It’s just a thought. It only has power when you let it turn into an action. It might be too vast to ask that you remove all these fleeting thoughts, but the least take notice when a thought like that pops into your mind. Then, let it go.

If all that each of us does is label a stereotypical thought in our mind and then let it dissipate, this in itself would make a noticeable different. You can make a difference in this community without every going anywhere or even moving off the couch. Change your thoughts.

Then, we need to get to know each other on a personal level, a level much deeper than just where you live or what type of car you drive. To honestly understand a person, and what makes them unique, you have to try to understand the adversity in their lives that have brought them to where they are today. No one is as simple as the surface may show. Each of us has clearly defined moments in our lives that have molded us in the way we carry ourselves and interact with one another.

Change your thoughts. Then we can help to change this community.