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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

diversity day

Most of the time, I have a pretty good attitude about things.  Most of the time. 

But sometimes, in life, you have to do ridiculous things for money.  Like sit through lectures teaching us about our differences and stereotypes.  These things I have a hard time having a good attitude about.  Especially when they conflict with my plans to skip town and have a long weekend at home with the family.

Oh well, at least I have some entertaining coworkers to fool around with.

So, yesterday I came into work with a grande coffee with a chip on my shoulder and a why-the-heck-am-I-here mentality.  Too cool for school.  The Swan Terrace people all sat together, joking, laughing under our breaths, sharing gingerbread man cookies with one another (well, they shared theirs with me, because I dropped mine on the floor).

It almost made me miss high school.

So at one point of the two hour lecture, we were all supposed to come down in groups and write generalizations that we've picked up on different demographic groups on these large easels in the front of the room: Mexicans, Arabs, Rich People, City Folk, Country Folk, Obese People, and Homeless People.

When this exercise was over we read them out loud as a class.  Some of them were pretty funny,  some were things everyone was thinking but no one would ever say. 

But one in particular broke my heart.

The people in our class ripped apart the homeless.  They wrote things like, "McDonald's is hiring," and that they were "lazy" and an "embarrassment."

And yes, while some were more gentle in their assessment, writing things like "bad luck," and "difficult life circumstances" the good did not outweigh the bad at all.

The HR director stood at the front of the room and asked if any of us could identify with any of the groups posted in front of the room.

One man raised his hand and said, "I was homeless."

For a split second, the room fell silent.  We weren't joking any more. He went on to say that, yes, some of the things that were written on the easel were true.  Some people were lazy.  Some people just can't get their lives together.  But there are always exceptions.  And he was one of them.

I really walked into this yesterday with the mentality that this was a waste of time.  And like many of the groups we generalized, I was quick make assumptions.  I think we all learned an important lesson yesterday afternoon.

And the greatest thing?  We got paid to learn it.

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