Last night, as part of my Freshmen Orientation, I was required to go to “Seahawk Nation: A Diversity Event”. The rest of the day had been filled with boring lectures about campus safety, so I wasn’t expecting much. I showed up at 6:45, grumbling to myself, and took a seat. But as soon as the speaker started her presentation, I was so blown away. Dr. Maura Cullen was full of life and engaging activities for her listeners and as she spoke, she walked around so animatedly, I couldn’t help but pay attention to her.

I’m not one for diversity speeches. I don’t believe in affirmative action and I’m not fond of talking about how special certain groups of people are. I subscribe to the idea that everyone is equal, including minorities, including majorities, including everything in between. And I think the only way to end racism is to ignore race.

I was pleasantly surprised by what Dr. Maura had to say. She made her speech about how to be a kind person, how to be nice to others around you, and how to be considerate in your actions and words. She was mainly concerned with trying to understand other people’s backgrounds, situations and difficulties and not judging people based on appearances. I thought this was a refreshing way to talk about diversity. She wanted to celebrate every single individual as they are. Her message was to be kinder than necessary, because everyone has a different story and you can’t judge someone else’s experiences because they are not your own. Everyone has their own struggles to get through, some more than others. But none of that makes anyone better than anyone else.

She also emphasized how much of an impact a single person can make on another’s life. Sometimes, someone is on the edge of a bad situation or a bad day and even just a smile or a kind word in passing can change that, let alone a listening ear or a crying shoulder. Being there for people is really important. Going out of your way to help those less fortunate than ourselves is our duty as humans. And that made me really conscious about my own actions and what I could do more of.

Why am I worrying about saying hi to the person sitting next to me? Why am I worrying that they’ll judge me? The best thing to do is be overly nice and friendly, even when it feels dumb, because you never know which person was having a really hard time and just needed someone to talk to, even if it’s a shallow conversation. Human interaction shows people that they are loved and cared for. Unconditional love and acceptance is crucial to feel like we belong in society. Friends only become loved ones when they truly see who we are and accept us anyways, so we have to not judge and we have to love.

I could never put these ideas into words as well as Dr. Maura did, but I encourage you to check out her website in the link above. She is really inspirational. What have you done to make someone feel loved or cared for? Ever wish someone was there for you and noticed you felt alone? Just how big is the power of acceptance and love?

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